He wanted a nose warmer

August 15, 2006 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Blogroll, country living, knitting | 4 Comments

Last evening after dinner it rained here for hours. For me, this is autumn … or the beginnings of it. If the weather in Los Angeles became cool with rain, it would be autumn. For my husband, it is still summer. Perhaps next year I will have learned new seasonal sensors but for now it is too soon to change. Autumn is my favorite time of year, so I am in good shape and enjoying the weather quite well.

Fireflys Cornfield in Golden Hour after RainThe lighting here is different too. Golden hour lasts much longer, and morning has a golden hour all its own that is even more golden still. Morning golden hour following an evening of rain is the loveliest of all. We wake up early; my husband goes to work at five in the morning so we wake up at four. From the windows near my computer, up on the second floor of the farm house, I can see the barn and the corn fields beyond it through one window and a stand of trees by the road through the other. The trees and the corn field are aglow with golden morning light, sparkling from the rain touched by glinting sun.

Such beauty, such opportunity for aesthetics. I sip steaming tea from a china teacup I bought at a garage sale and feel a little bit melancholy but not terribly so. I am very, very happy here but I do miss my family. I come from a large, loving family and I have two children who are in their twenties now. My daughter moved out this way and is only a few hours away, but my son remains in California. I miss him terribly sometimes. Raising the children on my own most of their lives, we became quite close. As they became adults our relationship expanded to include “friend” as well as family. I miss my friend and hope to see him soon.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I learned to knit when I was about eight years old. I was fourth of five children … three brothers, my sister and I. My oldest brother was four years older and he loved teasing me about any number of things. On the subject of knitting his favorite, on-going tease was, “When are you going to knit me a nose warmer?” It is strange when you are a kid how a tease like that can get to you, make you giggle or squirm or pout. Mostly his teasing made me giggle even if I pretended to be annoyed.

When we were teenagers I finally knit a nose warmer for him. It is the silliest project I ever undertook or designed. It was black; a miniature cone-shaped hat with two long crocheted ties coming off of either side. I still remember the grin on his face when I gave it to him. He had a great grin, and a sense of humor that aged well along with him. I am fairly certain I have not personally known anyone who could come close to being as funny. Quite a story teller too, and a passionate one at that. His stories are the best and the funniest, with the most terrific sprinkling of willful adjectives and witty observations.

Last year he passed away; just short of his 52nd birthday. He had cancer that had spread too much by the time they caught it. We learned he was ill in early February and by early April he passed away. I had a strong premonition that I had to get to Denver to see him in late March. He was being treated and it seemed he had a good chance for survival, but I had this feeling. I was going through a very rough time financially at the time, and had been for a couple of years. I literally only had about $250 in the bank and that was pretty much it. But, I loaded up the car, took my daughter and her husband with me and we drove to Denver in the snow and made our way to him.

Over a period of a few days, the entire family came to see him. Some from the Denver area, others flew out from California. It was a terrible and wonderful thing to be with him at that time and for us all to be together. My son and daughter were there, my parents, all the brothers and sisters, wives and husbands and nieces and nephews. We were afforded this extraordinary opportunity to say goodbye to him and to let him know he could go in peace with our love and support.

Fireflys Fushia Barn FlowersOne morning we were told he might possibly live only a couple of hours longer. He was heavily sedated because of pain, but somehow managed to ask for my sister and I to come to his side. We were standing on either side of him, holding his hands and wondering if he wanted to say something to us but he did not. I remembered my sister saying that he told her “America the Beautiful” was his favorite song and that they had sung it together in the hospital room a few days earlier. He loved the story of how the song was inspired by the view from Pike’s Peak, a view he treasured as well.

As we stood there beside him, for some reason I started singing “America the Beautiful” softly and my sister joined in. Soon he too started singing as best he could. He could not open his mouth because of the medications he was on, but he was making the tune and forming the words behind his closed lips. One by one the other family members in the room began singing as well. It was the most poignant moment of my life, one I doubt will be matched by another.

We sang a few more songs together, all of us. The last one was “Zippity Do Dah”, which he also sang with us. Within an hour or two he regained full consciousness and everything seemed to be turning around. It was actually confusing and disconcerting because of what we had been told earlier. He sat up, had someone help him to the restroom and suddenly he was a man who seemed to be on the mend rather than one who was on his deathbed.

He didn’t pass away that day, in fact he said he felt as if he had reached Nirvana. He was transferred to a hospice and had several more days to say his goodbyes, to hear and feel the love we all expressed.

Fireflys White Barn FlowersI was very fortunate to get to spend the last fourteen days of his life with him in the hospital part of the time, the hospice the last few days. We spoke of some important things, and I got to hold his hand. I got to see my other brothers minister to him, hold his hands, rub his feet, tell him they loved him. They are manly men, and such expressions and gestures of love were not their normal way.

I miss him, but he said, “Life is for living, and you have plenty of that left to do.” I promised him I would not be sad thinking of him, and would not dwell on grief. I have cried plenty; it would have been unhealthy not to have done so. But I rouse myself from the tears and look out toward life and think of him and smile. He loved farms and farming and rural life, even though he was not a farmer. He always had a garden of some kind growing, starting from way back when we were kids in North Carolina. I would like for him to know the happiness I have finally found in my life on this farm with a very good man who I love and who loves me, in a sweet and lovely part of the America.

I am grateful to have knitted that nose warmer for him; grateful for the opportunity to have known such a good boy and such a very, very fine man.

The past few years have been a time of upheaval and change for me and for my family. The passing of my oldest brother set certain things in motion that changed our lives forever. For me personally, the experience inspired a series of life-changing epiphanies I intend to share as I continue forward with this blog. Before long, those epiphanies and the changes they instigated brought me to this place, and for the first time since I was nine years old I have been able to relax deep inside myself.

I have been holding my breath for forty years and finally … peace.

Knitted Dish Towel with Sugar'n Cream YarnThe flower photos are some I shot last week out by our barn. Those flowers are growing rather profusely with wild abandon right about now. The knitted project is a little dish cloth I knitted last night as it rained. The Sugar’n Cream yarn was soft and enjoyable to work with; I used size eight dpns, which were a bit crowded to work on toward the middle of the piece … but that part didn’t last long. I wonder if I will be able to bring myself to wash dishes with this cloth.

Have a beautiful day.

~firefly

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4 Comments »

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  1. I stumbled on your blog a week or so ago, following your link from a comment you made in someone else’s book blog. I just had to write and tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your writing and photography. Gorgeous pictures accompanied by such lovely words.

    Your loving post about your brother’s death brought tears to my eyes, but also a smile to my face. I, too, have lost someone very dear to me. I’ve devoted an entire blog to her; letters filled with memories of her life and how deeply she is missed. It’s been very helpful to put my thoughts to “paper,” as I’m sure you’ve discovered in your writing.

  2. That’s a lovely memory of your brother. I love the image of you all singing together. Singing is such a wonderful thing. Your pictures support the thoughts expressed in the writing.

    It is still summer down here. I’ve just got back from England and now I am finding it too hot in Delaware.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Cat

  3. I just read your memory of your brother and his last days with you all around him. Made me cry. It would make anyone cry.
    But as I saw only two comments at the end, I just wanted to say for you to know that that doesn’t represent all the people who’ve read your posts. Many people may not be able to bring themselves to write anything after reading such an emotional experience. I’m sure you touched thousands of people’s lives by writing what you did.
    I have three brothers but one I am the closest to. We’ve been through a terrible childhood together and have our families now and I feel about my brother as you do about yours. No ONE can make me laugh the way Scott does. At times when I want to run away from myself, he knows exactly what to say and it’s all right again.
    I have a most loving and understanding husband for 25 years now, but there’s nothing that compares to your flesh and blood sibling that has seen you at your worst and still loves you, and will never truly leave you.
    Wishing you many, many restful and joyful memories to come.
    Lisa

  4. […] you recall, a while back I wrote about my oldest brother (He Wanted a Nose Warmer posted August 15, 2006) who passed away a couple of years ago. If you recall from that post, […]


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