GUEST POST: Thankful, by February Grace

Nov 26, 2013 by

GUEST POST: Thankful, by February Grace

Hi, everyone! One of my fellow Booktrope writers, February Grace, was kind enough to let me publish this essay of hers on being thankful. February is a phenomenal writer and has two books out, Of Stardust and Godspeed. You can get to know her better on her fabulously-named blog “Pitch-Slapped.”

Thankful, by February Grace

There was a time that I took something of a hiatus from writing.

It was before I’d ever written my first ‘serious’ attempt at a novel. A time when my daughter was young, and I was recovering from (what I didn’t know at the time was) a small stroke.

I needed something to try to get my lifeless left hand to move again—in some form or fashion—so I did something that I had wanted to do all my life (ever since I bought a Knit Magic toy second hand at someone’s garage sale.)

I taught myself to crochet.

With the help of a small ‘how to’ booklet from the craft store and a handful of online clips, I took to crochet like the proverbial duck to water, though I had to hold the yarn and hook differently than other people do, I managed to find my way.

I learned to decipher the second language that is a crochet pattern (my attempts to learn to knit were not as successful—I lack the dexterity needed to purl) and even wrote some patterns of my own, eventually.

For several years, you never saw me without my yarn and hook; always some project for one charity drive or another on my mind and in my hands.

Then I lost my eyesight.

I had been going blind, slowly, for years, only we didn’t realize it at the time. Then one day (due to a rare genetic condition) I woke up and had, overnight, lost most of the sight in my left eye. The sight on the right side was distorted and soon became just about as useless.

There is nothing glamorous about going blind.

I hated most having to try to navigate unfamiliar public restrooms without knowing where anything was.

I hated the fact that I was so stubborn about my new limitations that I actually set my sleeve on fire on the gas stove before I would admit that I had to stop cooking.

It all happened so quickly, it seemed, and no one was sure they could help me. I went through doctors at four different hospital systems before I was blessed to find my first wonderful U of M eye specialist, who then referred me to a surgeon specializing in research cases. Eventually, I would have two surgeons and a team of support specialists.

Besides not being able to see the faces of the people I loved (or even my own reflection in the mirror) the things I missed the most while blind was the ability to read, see colors, and the ability to crochet.

I had lost what had become a deep form of meditation for me: the yarn slipping through my fingers and over the hook, making a hat or a blanket for someone else to wear or find comfort in. I missed the ability to reach out to others through the work, and I didn’t think I would ever get the ability back, to any degree.

Between April 2009 and March of 2011 I had six eye surgeries. I was very blessed to have some of the finest surgeons in the country if not in the world; and despite setback after setback and complication upon complication they did what they at first thought was impossible: they gave me back some use of my vision.

There is, as with many things in life, a catch.

To regain any use of my sight I had to accept the fact that without special, heavy aphakia glasses, I will always be legally blind.

I am blind again, every time I have to take them off.

Without any lenses in my eyes of any kind (implants did not work for me) the moment I take off my glasses I am only able to see light, color, and motion; though I am grateful even for this because it is so much more than I had before they took a chance and agreed to try to help me.

With the special glasses, I am able to write and read for short periods of time before the eye strain sets in.

For a long time, I was still unable to crochet.

Truth is I longed to try again, but feared failure. I had to redefine what I considered success in the endeavor, and in the end I accepted that my crocheting intricate patterned blankets and tiny preemie hats is, sadly behind me (though some of the patterns I created for the latter purpose are still in circulation and being used to make hats, so that’s encouraging!)

One day I finally bought a skein of Caron Simply Soft and got one of my J hooks out and leafed through the remaining patterns I had on hand. (I gave most of my pattern books away when I went blind, knowing I would never use the complicated designs within again.) I discovered that I CAN still crochet; for short periods of time, and only if I am working a pattern where I am stitching in stitch spaces and not in the small stitches themselves.

I actually ended up making something for myself, for once: a simple poncho in neon green. Then, a hot pink shawl.

I am thankful that I am able to see the hook to hold it, and enjoy the color of the bright and cheerful yarn once again, even if only on a limited basis.

I am thankful to the doctors and surgeons at the University of Michigan who fought against all odds to do what everyone feared could not be done—give me back some useful vision.

I eventually returned to writing, and have even written two novels that have been published, along with poetry and even a few paintings! I never dreamed when I was fighting to feel my way around the house without falling that I would ever again see a sunset, a smiling face, or love in someone’s eyes.

I am grateful, as you can imagine, for all of these things. Just how grateful, I am not sure anyone can imagine.

Please don’t ever take a smiling face, or the love in someone’s eyes, or the ability to see as you stitch away with your needles and hooks, for granted. Each is a blessing, and one that is to be treasured every single day, just like every sunset.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with memorable sights, sounds, and laughter.

~February Grace

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