Friday, August 31, 2012

The Waiting Room

I sit in the waiting room, crocheting. Mr. M has just been taken through the double doors for a routine test, and I am left alone with my yarn and my thoughts.

Waiting rooms, like airports, are good places to craft and to think. Mundane tasks like dishes and laundry have been left behind, and can be safely (and honourably) forgotten. "Normal" life is suspended, however briefly, and in this temporary limbo there's a certain freedom.

A crafter is doubly blessed when faced with a period of waiting. For some, it's a precious opportunity to pull out a bit of quilting or knitting or crocheting - to complete a motif, add another few rounds, or work out a design detail. For others, making is a way to spin beauty out of pain; to soothe the mind by keeping the hands occupied; to tame the ragged tempo of life with rhythmic, measured stitches.

As I sit and wait and crochet, I think of the crafting I've done in hospital and waiting rooms. Sitting with my father this June, as he awaited surgery for skin cancer, while in my hands a hat took shape for a friend undergoing chemo. Crocheting round after mindless round of a tote bag last summer while my mother lay in a nursing home bed, her mind wandering in and out of reality. Working on a lovely Doris Chan pattern a few years back, while my mother-in-law underwent an uncomfortable procedure. Sitting at the foot of my sister's hospital bed, quilting a wall hanging destined for a charity auction, while she recovered from emergency surgery.

I remember the grandaddy of all waiting-room craft sessions, eighteen years ago now: the day Mr. M's brain tumor was removed in a 14-hour surgery, when one by one all the other families left the waiting room as their loved ones came out of recovery, leaving me and my sister the sole occupants. As the hours crept by and darkness deepened outside, I fetched my sewing machine in from the car (I had come prepared, you see), set it up on the empty volunteer's desk, and began to apply yards and yards of binding to a quilt we had made for a niece. I was still sewing when the first neurosurgeon came in to tell us they'd gotten all the tumor and were in the process of closing. By the time the second neurosurgeon arrived to report that Mr. M was in recovery, the binding was completely attached to the front of the quilt. That quilt and I spent the next few days in Mr. M's hospital room, he struggling with pain and confusion, I blind-stitching the binding to the backing as though my life depended on it.

Today's was a much happier period of waiting. Mr. M came through the test with flying colours, and I resolved a design problem on an adorable baby hat (destined for a small niece-to-be arriving next month, when the pattern will also be shared), while enjoying the bright flow of colour through my hands.

As we drive home from the hospital, relieved that the small ordeal is over, the thought occurs that there are also waiting rooms of the soul. I think of blogging friends whose lives are in quiet upheaval: one has just lost a beloved husband and is slowly finding her way back to life; another is in the eye of a cancerous hurricane, waiting for the next round of treatment to start; a third is recovering from an excruciating injury that threatened to cut her off from the activity she loves most; another suffers from a potentially crippling illness that brings with it periods of acute discomfort.

I hope and pray that these tangled threads may be somehow smoothed ... that the times of waiting, though painful, will also produce something that is beautiful and useful in the lives of these dear ladies who have so generously become my friends.


How do you pass the time in waiting rooms?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


  1. A lovely post Sue. I am happy to hear Mr. M is doing well. I finished a cross-stitched mermaid while caring for my father the last week of his life. It has a special memory attached to it that is bitter-sweet. My cross stitching days may be over due to the >50 year old eye sight; however, the memories of my father, especially during that week remain. He told me mermaids weren't real. :-)

  2. What a lovely text accompanied by little shots of your yarn. I am so pleased for you and Mr. M that he is coming through the test with flying colours. Your coloured yarns were busy creating in this moment of waiting. Yes, crafting is a great soother in difficult times. In the past, I have used bread-making by hand as something that brings me through difficulties. It grounds me and helps me express what is inside and is somehow comforting.

  3. You are absolutely right indeed....a time when everything hangs in the air and time ticks on steadily is well spent crafting.....I feel privileged to be able to create, with yarn, paints and music, these things have certainly carried me through when I've needed it.

  4. Beautiful post that brings many memories back to me. Glad to hear Mr. M came through with flying colors!

  5. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Crafting has a strong force and sure kept me going when everything turned upside down 11 years ago.

  6. In answer to your question, knitting, as you know.

    Hurrah that the news is good for Mr. M :D

    This is a post to be treasured for its insight and its humanity, thank you for sharing these thoughts with us Sue x

  7. I read some piece of nothing as I am incapable of thinking while waiting in a waiting room.

  8. It is so good to know that Mr M came through the test.

  9. What a lovely post. Glad to hear you both received good news today!

  10. What a beautiful post and yes I love to crochet in waiting rooms in buses, on trains and anywhere else it gives me pleasure to know that I'm not wasting time but creating something for someone in need. I would never have thought of bringing a sewing machine though haha. I'm pleased all is well for MR M and that he came through the test :)

  11. What a beautiful post. Waiting is indeed the bane of many, but you have put it in such a lovely perspective. You are a marvel. By the way, I LOVE that purple yarn. :) Truck on Mr. M! We are so glad to hear you are good to go!!!

  12. So glad that Mr. M passed with flying colors.
    I usually do some hand sewing in waiting rooms or hospitals or nuesing homes. I have done bindings (but just the hand part LOL). I have done cross stitch, needlepoint, and some knitting. I learned that I need a very simple pattern during those times. (I did a lot of frogging before I figured that out).

  13. First so happy Mr. M is fine, that is the most important thing of all. I always bring my knitting or crochet to appointments. I too have spent oodles of time in waiting rooms, ER's, hospital rooms and the nursing home with my parents. Working with yarn has kept me sane during these stressful times. I also think that when yarn is in my hands it makes me more approachable. Someone waiting in the same room makes a comment on what I am making and before you know it they are talking about what their loved one is going through. I say again and again that working with yarn saves my sanity. It is much cheaper than therapy and if you are prepared it is always with you.
    Take care of yourself and wonderful Mr. M,

  14. To all you lovely ladies who have left such kind comments: Thank you! It was a VERY routine test for Mr. M but we are indeed grateful that everything came out well.

    And I don't usually lug my sewing machine to appointments - that was a one-off. Desperate times call for desperate crafting. :)

  15. I knit in waiting rooms as you might have guessed - it helps to have something to calm the mind and soothe the soul, doesn't it, and I think occupying the hands also occupies the head too. Glad it all went well this time.

    Pomona x

  16. Wonderful writing in this post. Hospital time is just like you say, time suspended. A mentor of mine, Pam Durban, has a book called So Far Back that also addresses how the intricate handiwork women do often reflects the intricacy of their pain or their way of dealing with suffering. You know, the way we weave our lives.

  17. This post spoke to me so deeply. You are right. Waiting rooms can be an excellent place to craft so as to keep some semblance of normalcy going in a place that is less than normal. I am so glad that your husband is doing well. Looking forward to seeing your baby hat pattern!

  18. Those who can knit, etc., are very lucky. They always have something to do-with-their-hands. Especially, at times of stress. Like in waiting rooms. I can't knit. So I do not have that help.

    Thank you for telling me that you noticed my "I Have Flying Monkeys..." addition, below my Header pic! You are the only one. And now it's nearly time to change my Header pic, and whatever I put in that space, below it.

    Oh well. I suppose some of my Dear Readers are offended in some way, by anything *smacking-of* Halloween or witches or etc. Which is fine with me, as long as they don't punish me, for what I have fun with. :-) And if they go away, and are afraid to read my blog, that is also fine with me. :-)

    And/but, this certainly makes me more appreciate, Dear Readers who do not *spook* at my fun. ,-)


  19. Thank you, Pomona, N.W., K, and Auntie.

  20. My heart was up in my throat when I first saw the title, so I must confess how thrilled I am everything has turned out okay. I think between you and me and our very dear blogging friends, there has been more than enough tragedy and sadness. Time for sunshine!!! And Planet Penny's rainbow!

    I always have something to make or work on in my bag, everywhere I go. Because I never know when I might have a moment or two I can sneak in a few stitches. It gives my hands something to do, it takes my mind off troubling things, it helps me focus on something other than pain, it renews me, it provides a way to give something special to special people, it inspires me, it excites my creative yearnings. And it wiles away the hours...


I love comments! Speak on....