Alice May

Early yesterday morning my husband received a worrisome call from his sister about their mother. It seemed that my mother-in-law, who has been under the care of hospice since October, had taken a turn for the worse.

In a couple of hours time my husband received a second call — this one to let him know that his mother’s earthly journey had ended.

I don’t know what my mother-in-law’s official cause of death was, but the illness from which she suffered that took the largest toll on her person was Alzheimer’s disease.

In June of 2007 she came to stay with us while we sorted out her care options. At that point, her memory was an odd pastiche of various moments in her life that were not held together by any narrative thread that was obvious to the outside observer.

Some of memories stretched back to 1940s Nebraska, and whenever we would drive for any length of time on the freeway, she would tell me that if I saw the turnoff for Ord, it would be nice to go.

She remembered her late husband’s name, but did not recognize that he was the groom in her wedding photos — this despite 50 years of marriage and 5 children.

She knew who her children were and would recite their names to me — oldest to youngest.

She never did learn my name, but she seemed to like me as well as a person could like a perpetual stranger, and when she would see me working on my crochet, she would tell me “I used to do that,” and while she did crochet on occasion, her main fiber art interest was knitting, and the evidence that remains suggests that she was both a prolific and accomplished knitter.

While her collection of work is scattered among her living children, we do have a few of her pieces in our house, including this sweater:

hand knit sweater, crochetbug, alice may, acrylic yarn
A blue and green sweater

with interesting colorwork:

hand knit sweater, crochetbug, alice may, acrylic yarn,  garter stitch, color work
Detail of the color work

these two textured sweaters worked in two different neutrals

two hand knit sweaters, crochetbug, alice may, knitted cables, textured knitting
Two knitted sweaters

with cables and popcorn stitches:

hand knit sweater, crochetbug, knitted bobbles, knit bobbles, knitted cables, knit cables
Detail of the texture and cables on a sleeve

this knitted blanket with a center seam join:

knitted blanket, crochetbug, knitted ripple, knitted chevron, red, rojo,, white, blanco, blue, azul, azure
A red, white, and two blues knitted blanket

and this one crochet project: a granny square scrap afghan:

scrap granny square afghan, crochetbug, crochet blanket, crochet afghan, granny square blanket, scrap yarn crochet
Alice’s scrap granny square afghan

This last project, with its myriad bold and bright colors and careful and colorful stitches, hints at the adventurer my mother-in-law must have been.

It is sad that my mother-in-law was stripped of so much of her identity during the last years of her life, but through her crafting, there is a legacy of who she was and what she did that will transcend, time, disease, and even death.