I spend a lot of time with Dad just sitting. Sometimes I’ll be reading out stories from the newspaper or a magazine. Sometimes we’ll be watching a TV programme together. Sometimes I’ll just be keeping him company while he rests or has a wee snooze.
If he’s left on his own too long Dad can become anxious – worried that he’s been forgotten about or abandoned. So sometimes it’s important just to be there.
All in all, it’s a lot more sitting around of an afternoon or evening than I would otherwise choose. It can get a little frustrating at times – and that’s where knitting comes in.
I’ve been a knitter since I was quite a little girl and Mum taught me to knit squares. At least they were supposed to be squares. By the time I’d finished they were a little more, er, irregular than that.
Once when I was searching out a box of cotton hankies for Dad I discovered, neatly folded at the back of a shelf, the blue scarf that I’d knitted for him when I was about six or seven. It was full of holes and dropped stitches and must have been the most ineffective scarf ever produced. But I had made it and so there it was, kept and treasured. It says a lot about the kind of Dad that my Dad was - and is. I get quite emotional just thinking about it. (I’ll just have to stop typing for a moment, I think I have something in my eye).
Anyway, I practised and practised and eventually graduated onto jumpers, cardigans, hats and mittens.
It’s been a lifesaver. When I’m sitting with Dad I can be knitting (or crocheting) and it doesn’t feel like I’m just sitting there waiting for time to pass. I can be creative. I can enjoy the rhythm of the repetitive stitches, the gentle click click of the needles, the feel of the soft wool in my fingers. It’s almost a form of meditation – an exercise in mindfulness that calms my mind.
It’s also very flexible. Easily put down - if I need to take Dad to the toilet, fetch him a drink or mop up spilt tea - and equally easily picked up again. It’s the perfect carer’s hobby.
It may sound a little strange to non-crafters, but knitting is part of my identity. Family and friends know that I knit and will ask me what I’m working on at the moment. Fellow knitters and I will chat about wool and patterns and techniques. It really is knitted into the fabric of my life (sorry).
I think most carers need something like that in their life. Something that is flexible, that helps you to switch off from caring responsibilities, even if for just a short while. Something that gives you a sense of achievement. Something that you do purely for the enjoyment of it. For me it’s knitting, but it could easily be painting or poetry, scuplture or stamp collecting. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just that it is.
I always knew that knitting could be fun and creative and sociable. It’s even become quite trendy in recent years, as craft has undergone a general revival. But I didn’t realise it could save my sanity too.