Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It's high time I start introducing y'all to more of the cast of characters that comprise my life.

I interact with a whooole lot of folks as part of my volunteer work. I belong to an organization called LITA (Love is the Answer). They match you up with a buddy in the hospital who does not get visitors, and then you see that person weekly for some one-on-one time. My first buddy was when I was in my early 20's. I visited her for a couple of years, and then she passed away. After that, I took one very long break from the commitment, but more recently I have been matched up with James (whom I have written about before, and will write about again very soon).

But really, the visits have not been all that one-on-one. I have been coming and going from the hospital to see James for close to three years now, and I have gotten to know many other residents. I always stop and chat with three or four of them for a few minutes on the way out. My time with them has such a profound effect on my thinking and feeling, I can no longer leave them off the blog and still be able to try and explain what's going on in my head or heart. They are an integral part!

Today I'll introduce you to one, and over the next several weeks I will sprinkle in a few more here and there, including the other convalescent gig I do, which is a knitting group. That one is a hoot.

Ok, so here we go.

Sadly, I am going to be starting this process with someone that is no longer with us.

November 2008

This is (was) Elinor. Pardon me if I get the tenses wrong throughout this description, but I just found out about her passing this week, and it still has not quite settled in yet.

This woman was a kick in the pants. Definitely one tough cookie. Kind of a no-bullshit, "I grew up in the midwest and almost froze to death during the depression" sort of gal. I dont know how many kids she had, but she definitely had a couple of sons in their mid to late 60's that would come to visit her at lunchtimes, right around the same time of day that I would be visiting James. We'd all sit around and talk and tell stories. I always loved listening to their accents. There was also a granddaughter that would come from time to time, not much older than myself, and she was a knitter.

I think that Ellie was in her late 90's. She was very hard of hearing, blind in one eye and pretty close to that in the other. When I first met her she'd put her hand out near my legs and feel around to make sure that I was "that one legged chick". We eventually got familiar enough that she recognized my voice more quickly, I think. Mentally, she was sharp as a tack. She would always ask me about MyFavoriteKid, and if I had told her I was going to do something interesting during the next week, she'd always follow up to ask me how it went. She was a straight shooter. I would not call her a complainer, but let me tell you, she called it like she saw it....especially when it came to the hospital staff and how they handled her.

Now, right around the time this photo was taken (last November), Ellie was complaining about how cold it was in there, and dang-nav-it, what she needed was a hat. She wanted to me to knit it, and she wanted a beanie, but not too tight, and she wanted it to be blue, light blue, so it complimented her eyes (and I think most of her wardrobe).



I never. knit. the hat.

The day she had asked me for it, I came home right away and found some yarn that was the right color, and then I realized it was wool, and that she would definitely need something that could be tossed into the hospital laundry. It took me weeks (it may even have been months) to get my arse into a shop that carried that sort of thing...and even then, even after I had the yarn, I still did not knit the hat.

A HAT, people.
(for those of you non-knitters out there, my skill level should have me banging out a hat in a day or two...this is not rocket science)

this is the yarn I had purchased, intending to do some fair-isle sort of thing

Then came our early spring her in Northern California, where we had temps in the upper 90's in what was it, March?? ....and was no longer cold, which was another perfect excuse, and I just never knit it.

About a week ago, I got to thinking that fall was coming around again, and I had the yarn, and still no hat, and I had this guilt hanging over me, and dang-nav-it...I should knit the hat. And that is when it occurred to me that I hadn't seen Ellie in a few weeks.

Now, this is not entirely unusual. Sometimes a resident will have a spell where they take their lunches in their rooms, in after a fall, or a bout of...well...whatever....any number of things. So I went down to her room to say hi, and guess what?!

She's gone. She passed away about a month ago. Passed pretty quietly, with no trip to the "hospital-hospital". She just left.

And with no hat.

It really hit me hard, in a small part because this "not following through" theme has been cropping up all over the place lately, but mostly because....well....I'm just flat out going to miss her.


Guernseygal said...

she sounds like a lovely lady - very like my MIL that we lost just before Christmas. Don't beat yourself up about the hat - we all do it - I promised MIL an afghan to keep her legs warm in her wheelchair - I spent so long looking for "just the right" pattern that she was gone before I even bought the yarn... some people you just think are going to go on forever and then suddenly they're gone.

Cristi-Lael said...

I've been trying to find the right thing to say to make you feel better, but everything I think of sounds so lame. But I couldn't say nothing because I know how you feel and it's a sucky feeling. So, I guess that's what I'll say...

Jennie said...

I am so sorry. I am right with you on the no-follow-through thing and have been battling it, well, since *my* favorite kid was born.

I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds like quite the character.

Melissa said...

/Hugs/ Follow through can be so tough.

Lorena said...

Have you ever noticed - heck, of course you have - that we sometimes tend to put things we want to do for people of a certain caliber to the back burner; we put things off because our tools aren't good enough for that person, we put things off because they're good people and will forgive something being late, we put things off because other things make more noise and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Sometimes I think a kick-in-the-heart experience isn't as much about the fates making us feel guilty as it is about grokking the lesson to put our hearts on a better path; a reminder to do for the ones we love first rather than doing what's directly in front of us first.

And thus you have my pre-coffee ramblings; and my hugs.

Jan said...

Mmm, so sad. I understand, though. My sister had breast cancer for 9 years before she died of it. About 4 years before she died, I had seen a contest to design a breast cancer ornament, and then I started knitting Christmas ornaments with beads. I started to design an ornament with the breast cancer ribbon, probably 3 years before she died.

Designing is hard! I tried and tried on the round balls, and got nowhere. Then I found an egg-shaped ball, and after several variations finally produced something I liked. I wanted to present it in person. I gave it to her 3 months before she died. She thought it was amazing, and kept asking where I'd found it. Since the cancer was by now in her brain, she couldn't understand that I'd designed it.

Along the way, several people in my guild wanted the pattern, and I can't find a source for the balls now.

Many many regrets from that one!

I think part of my delays was caused by thinking if I don't finish this, she'll keep on living ....

I'm now working a prayer shawl for a friend, and it has been WAAAAY too long in progress, but I can't seem to get it finished.

Thanks for writing about this. Sorry this great lady is no longer with you.

Unknown said...

you could make the hat for someone at the home who doesn't get many visitors and give it to them "just because"!

ellie knows you love her.