Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Red Knitting Chair

January is Alzheimer’s month and this is the story I want to share with you. It has been published a few times in different newspapers. Now that our Mother has passed, in her honour, I want to share it with you my Blogger family.




Like a spotlight, the sunlight sweeps across the carpet searching for the red chair, the chair that had always been there, her knitting chair. Just two days earlier, Mom had explained to me how important that chair was to her. 

“Look, there is lots of room for my arms to move while I knit. I love this chair. Can I take it with me?” The memory of this conversation will be imprinted in my mind forever. I also remember reassuring her that yes she would indeed be able to take her red knitting chair and anything else she wanted with her. She had looked back down and continued knitting another square with burgundy yarn and two different-coloured knitting needles while smiling, her fingers moving quickly.

In her house without her, I was filled with an overwhelming sadness, but I also felt happy and hopeful: a mixed bag of emotions churned inside me and I knew that it would continue to churn while I struggled with the question: Is this, was this, the right decision?

This Alzheimer’s label that Mom had been given had changed all our lives. For six years after the passing of our dad, we siblings had taken turns every day doing things for Mom that he’d been doing. We cooked her meals so she would never again forget to turn off the gas stove. We made sure that she ate more than just dry Cheerios, the only thing she remembered she wanted. Hiding, and then dispensing her medications so that there would never again be an episode of taking one week’s worth of medicine in a couple of days. Keeping close eye on, or actually chasing away door-to-door salesmen who would talk her into things she did not need. The constant worry and wondering if and where she would wander off when we were not there.

And now the time had come. I stood in Mom’s house, watching the sunlight still search for that red knitting chair just like I was automatically doing; but now only the imprints of the chair’s legs in the carpet remained. I was with my sisters, wrapped in Tess’s comforting arms, crying. Lizzy, with her tear-stained face, was next to us while Pearl (the strong one) was begging me not to hug her because she had just finished her own “moment.”

This was more difficult than any of us had ever imagined. Tess then asked the question we were all thinking but didn’t dare say aloud: “If this affects us so much, why are we doing it?” We all knew the answer: “It was time.” After months of worry, and finding it difficult to keep mom safe, it had to be done. She needed more than we could possibly give. She needed a place with constant care. It was obvious she could no longer live alone.

Even if we did not want to face that fact, we all knew it deep down. We also knew that denial was not going to make this go away. It was the right decision, the guilt we were feeling and would probably always feel was part of it, but we knew this had to be all about Mom; we needed to keep her safe. I looked over to the shadows from the tree dancing on the carpet and noticed the sun had finally stopped searching for that red knitting chair.

We wiped away our tears, put on brave faces and jumped into our cars, Lizzy with Pearl, while I hopped into Tess’s car as I knew I could not get behind the wheel. We drove over to Mom’s new place. We walked into a beautiful bright room where she was lying on her own bed and the sunshine from the south danced on the carpet where that red knitting chair sat just out of its reach. The sun was searching for what it knew was there, somewhere. I stared at Mom while holding in those churning feelings and my tears. Mom was smiling, lying back with her arms tucked behind her head.

If she noticed our puffy eyes she did not say a word. She lay in her own bed surrounded by the things she loved. Dad’s photos lined the wall. Her kitchen table, the one where she had always done her crosswords and always ate her breakfast, sat under the huge window. Beyond, we could see a beautiful garden with trees, flowers and grapes hanging from the fence. That will be what she now sees when she wakes every morning.

Mom’s laughter brought me back to where I needed to be, away from worry and doubt. Lizzy, with one of those corny family jokes that only we could understand, had brought laughter, bouncing off those cheery pale-blue walls, the colour that Mom had picked for her new room.

Mom made her familiar comment, “you darn fool,” and then tears from my laughter ran down my cheek. I could see the faces of Pearl, Lizzy and Tess and I knew they felt it, too. Yes, it was time, and we knew no matter what may come, Mom was now safe and happy. I looked over to the red knitting chair where the sunlight lay comfortably on its arm. It had found what it had been searching for and that was the moment I knew things were going to be okay. It was time.


     Grace Vanderzande

Note: With The "First Rights" obligations to The Globe and Mail finished. I now own all rights to my story to do as I wish. This would be my wish.

33 comments:

  1. Hugs, Buttons. That red chair is now priceless and filled with good memories as well as sad but your mom has had hours and hours of comfort while knitting in her favourite chair. I hope that you take comfort in sitting in that red chair while you knit like your mom. It would sadden me knowing the chair stood empty.

    Hugs,
    Julia

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  2. Your Mom chose a cheery blue room...and had her favorite red chair...and her loving family around her! :) Oh, the memories you have forever...and I'm sure some of her warm, knitted creations too! May we be able to handle the same situation with as much grace as you and your siblings did, when the time comes for us to face that journey with our parents!

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  3. I love this. I often think of your story of your mom's red chair, the love it represents, then I think of my own mother and my eyes tear up. Your writing is powerful, it touches the hearts of your readers.

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  4. it's a beautiful story b, you told it with so much affection and love!! i would have know those hands anywhere, you photographed them so often!!! you were so lucky to have her and now these wonderful memories!!!!!

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  5. What a beautiful portrait of love! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Boa tarde, seu texto revela um enorme sentimento de amor pela sua mãe, não existe amor igual que ao da mãe, lamento a sua mãe.
    AG

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  7. Thank you for sharing a wonderful piece, Buttons.

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  8. Thank you for sharing a wonderful piece, Buttons.

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  9. I can relate so well with this because of Dad and our same painful decision.

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  10. Hello Grace girl : )
    This is a very moving story and such a deep reminder of how many people are affected by this disease ... it is never just the person who has it (they don't even understand what they have most of the time, which is a blessing I suppose) .. so many family members are impacted by it .. but in moments like this they have to know that they have done their very best to bring comfort and security for that family member .. the red chair is a gift of a story for those who have gone and will go through this process .. thanks for sharing girl ...
    Joy : )

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  11. What a lovely story. Everything you and your sisters did, was done with love.

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  12. Hello Buttons!:) My eyes welled up with tears after reading your beautifully written story, a story of deep love, and of cherished memories. Thank you for sharing these treasured moments. My Mum had Alzheimer's, and I cared for her for six years before her demise, and it was a pleasure and privilage to do so. I say good morning to her every morning as I pass her portrait.:)

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  13. I am glad you shared your wish with us.. the story is just how I imagined it would be.

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  14. I am glad you HAVE the red chair!...:)JP

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  15. Absolutely the hardest thing any child has to do for their parent and you did it with compassion and grace.

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  16. Yes, decisions to move ailing parents have so many emotions. Everybody has to be on the same page. Once the move is done most people are happy..

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  17. This was so beautifully written. I felt so sad to hear of those salespeople trying to sell your Mom things, how heartless. Your Mom's legacy lives on in you and in these beautiful memories of her.

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  18. what a lovely post, thank you for sharing.

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  19. It is hard to make that decision. You have written about it with grace and dignity.

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  20. Lovely that you took such good care of your Mom:)

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  21. What a touching story of remembrance! Very well-written! xo Nellie

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  22. You've brought tears to my eyes with this story. I'm glad your mum has accepted her new home and the sunlight was able to find the red knitting chair again.

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  23. What a beautiful story of love.

    Thank you ~ FlowerLady

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  24. Beautiful B . . .
    Brings me memories of my mom in a similar journey . . .

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  25. A story to cherish with the memories of your Mom.

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  26. Beautiful. As a family having an Alzhimer patient living here, you have to roll with the punches or go crazy. They can be comical too. Glad you shared this and congratulations on the post.

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  27. I am so happy you were able to share this poignant piece about your mother. I continue to hope that there is a cure in the near future.

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  28. What a sweet story and thanks for sharing. I pray for a cure for this disease and I feel in my heart that one is just around the corner.

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  29. Wonderful, Buttons. You are fortunate that your Mom was ready too. Sadly that is not always the case.

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  30. beautiful memory, dear. it can be a cruel disease, but your whole family remained strong and loving throughout. <3

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  31. A sad sad story and yet one can see the happiness or the "rightness" of it. You are a wonderful story teller. A good memory of a beautiful lady.thank you.
    MB

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  32. How nice your mother could pick the color for her room, and have her own furnishings, too. That had to help her transition a lot.

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The mind grows by what it feeds on. J.G. Holland

Thank you so much for your comments, they mean more to me then I could ever express. Hug B

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