Mom’s Stroke: A Year Later: Knitting Life Lessons

I just ordered an extra ball of lime green chunky weight yarn  for my 89-year-old mother so she could finish a hat. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine I’d be doing that. A year ago, my mother suffered a stroke. It didn’t seem likely knitting was something she’d ever do again.

My husband and I were visiting friends in Orson, PA, having biked there. In the midst of a dinner party birthday celebration, I got the call from one of my sisters.

I rushed home, changed clothes, and drove to Yale New Haven Hospital. My mother recognized me, but had trouble saying my name and those of my three siblings. She didn’t remember who my father was and that they’d been married for 64 years.

What followed were many batteries of tests, a transfer to a hospital in New London for three weeks of rehab, then to another rehab facility in Guilford, then finally home with a series of visitors: physical, speech, and occupational therapists. For months and months.

At home, I showed her a blanket she had knit, that was nearly finished before her stroke. Not knowing when she’d return home and what her skills might be, I completed it while she was away. When we showed it to her, she didn’t remember that she’d knit it. We put her knitting in her hands—and while she could mimic what to do with the needles, she couldn’t knit, nor showed any desire to attempt a lifelong passion.

With time she went from being non- verbal, immobile and unable to take care of herself, to speaking, walking with assistance and assuming her self-care. With time, she began showing interest in knitting. She accepts now that she made the blanket and that I finished it; and we found a simple ribbed hat pattern and yarn leftover from the afghan. She has a bright green jacket the hat will match perfectly.

Her progress, while slow yet steady, reminds me of how she taught me to knit decades ago when I was 7.  By teaching me how to knit, she taught me how to live. What she exemplifies in knitting – patience, perseverance, and pride– transfers to daily living and to her recovery.

She knew she had to be patient. We had to be too. She persevered through all those therapy sessions, relearning to speak, walk, eat, write, and more. We helped her along, cheering her progress. She’s proud of where she’s come—though she doesn’t remember what happened to her, she knows she was ill.

It’s been both an incredible honor to witness her recovery and gut-wrenching too. Her memory isn’t what it was. She’s experiencing mild dementia, creating confusion.

We can’t have the in-depth conversations about art, literature and politics we once had. Yet there are sparks now and then when she reappears. She can understand if we’re patient, talk a little louder and slowly. She can show tremendous empathy. We try to find joy in everyday.

And when she picks up her knitting needles, she loves feeling the yarn, seeing the colors and patterns, and creating from nothing, something.

Like a lime green, ribbed hat.

This entry was posted in aging, Family, health, Knitting, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Mom’s Stroke: A Year Later: Knitting Life Lessons

  1. Marci Barr Abbot says:

    I did not know that your mother suffered a stroke. She has been such a fighter to Make the improvements that she has to date. I am happy to see her resume knitting. This must feel like such an achievement and give her immense satisfaction.
    You are a great daughter ! MBA

    Like

  2. Colline says:

    This is such a positive and hopeful story. I hope you mom gets stronger and that her passion for knitting is rekindled.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Drjcwash says:

    It is so hard to believe it was a year ago. What a journey for you both. So many lessons learned. It great that you share knitting.

    Like

  4. This is a great post, and so relatable. Keep writing about it. Your story is universal, and you’ll be glad you did. No need to publish if you don’t want to, but I’m sure your mother would be delighted to encourage you, as she always has.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gabi. I haven’t written about it at all– til now. The yarn presented a way to approach without sounding too sentimental–after all, I’m hardly unique nor is my mother!
      Always appreciate your words supporting my writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. beachbarb says:

    Beautiful tribute for a beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing that Lisa.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Bobbie. So glad you visited her in May. It’s been a tough year.

    Like

  7. Nancy Polster says:

    What a great blog entry. I lost my mom last October. She had had a stroke 22 months previously. I understand the patience and sadness that comes with the rehab from a stroke. My mom sadly never really came back to how she was before. She only got progressively worse. I’m glad you have this time with your mom and these wonderful memories. The blanket btw is beautiful!! I hope you and your family is doing well. Please update me.

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  8. You must be so thrilled at the progress made by your mom, Lisa. Our moms are so precious to us. I’m sure the hat and the blanket will be much-treasured by you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thrilled- yes– but also so sad to see. She’s not who she was so there’s been adjusting to the new normal. Aging can be cruel!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I know that feeling of sadness. My darling mom passed away four years ago after suffering from dementia. It was awful to see her struggling to be normal. She was always such an active and sprightly person and so full of fun. It was heartbreaking to see her so helpless. xx

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  9. This post is so deeply moving and inspiring, Lisa. What a wonderful legacy your mother has given you and her family, and what love you have returned. A dear friend has just suffered a stroke, and it’s horrifying to watch her struggle back… our age, and so involved in our community and the lives of her 7 kids. I’ll share your post. xox

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  10. Beautiful story. I cried as I read about your mom’s recovery and how knitting bonds you two. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

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