Growing up, my grandmother was always knitting and crocheting something for somebody. She often made sweaters, blankets, scarves, hats, you name it and my Grandmother either could do it from memory or had the plans for it somewhere in her knitting bag. Her knitting bag hung off of her chair in the kitchen. She always sat in the same chair, and she kept her knitting bag within arms reach because she would spend plenty of time knitting.
Every year Noni would knit me a pair of sock/slippers that I would wear around the house until they would inevitably disappear and then she’d make me a new pair. When Winter would roll around, she would always make me a new pair of gloves too. My hands and feet were always growing from year to year, so she tried her best to keep up.
When my grandmother first was diagnosed with Dementia/Alzheimer’s it was about 18 or 19 years ago. I had never really heard of it before.
I remember when I was really little, my mother had a friend who’s husband had Alzheimers. He shared the same name as me. I didn’t know what the disease meant. I didn’t know it was even a disease at that age. All I knew was he couldn’t move for himself or feed himself. He acted like an infant despite being a senior citizen. It scared me as a child.
My grandmother was nothing like that, so it seemed like such a disconnect. There was no real way to explain it to her in a way she could understand. She didn’t know she had it and I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. We both knew that she was having challenges. All I knew was that she was a little more forgetful and it was challenging having a conversation with her.
She’d had it for a few years and I was in High-school by then. She was still, for the most part, highly functioning. I couldn’t find a pair of gloves and I figured I would ask my grandmother to knit me a pair. With great enthusiasm she agreed. She was having trouble keeping track of her counts with a larger project and she felt like the gloves might be a good change of pace for her.
She asked what color I wanted them in, growing up I had always wanted bright colors that stood out, but now that I was older I wanted something toned down. Black or brown was my choice. My grandmother grabbed a big bundle of brown yard and started knitting her heart out. She worked on it most of her free time. When I would come home from school she would say “Come here, let me measure it against your hand.” and she’d hold it up to have a better idea of the size. Then she’d continue working on it some more.
I don’t remember exactly how long it took her to make this pair of gloves. In my mind it seemed like it wasn’t more than a few days and she had told me they were ready.
I put them on and I wore them all winter long. They were a little…”off” but they served their purpose. All the fingers were just about the same length, which was weird because my pinky has all this extra room while my middle finger fits in perfectly. The palm of the glove isn’t complete either, so the part the should go around your wrist settles snugly on the base of your palms.
Regardless of how they fit I wore them constantly. I had snowball fights in these gloves, and when I had a winter cold my snot probably got all over them too. They have been washed and dried in the washer countless times.
The following year I had asked my grandmother to make me a pair. She couldn’t seem to get it right. They were far worse and didn’t fit me. I remember it looking like a piece of abstract art. She had tried knitting a sweater for my cousins newborn and that too was not done right. The worst part was that she didn’t even realize how off they were. The sweater had sleeves of two very different lengths and the base of the sweater was at an angle too.
She was unable to make anything else, and after having a challenge making a basic blanket, she finally quit knitting all together. We had had DOZENS of blankets made by my Grandmother. She’d ask us what kind of colors we wanted and she’d just go off and make it for us. That stopped.
I didn’t know this would be the last pair of gloves my grandmother would ever make me. I just thought it was one in another long line of things she’d make me.
The following winter I found the gloves in the pocket of one of my winter jackets and I was so happy. I’d always managed to loose or maybe throw-away all the gloves, slippers, or blankets that she’d made me but this pair was still around. So it became an every winter pair of gloves. My mother had bought me thick winter gloves, and stretchy gloves that have special finger tips so that you can use them with a touch-screen device. Those gloves never seemed to keep my hands as warm as the pair my grandmother had knit.
Fast forward some time now. I’ve been out of high school for 12 years, and I’m now in my 30’s. I still use these gloves every winter. I haven’t had to fix them or mend them, they’ve just held on so well. I’ve washed them and dried them occasionally still and they always come out perfectly fine. They are a constant homage to my grandmother and what she could and did do for us.
Now my grandmother struggles with the most basic of day to day activities like eating or having a conversation. When I go back to Boston to visit her I’m going to remember to bring my gloves and I’m going to show them to her and see if it sparks a conversation or a memory with her.
So much of my grandmothers identity has been lost to Alzheimer’s. She is a shell of the woman she used to be. Occasionally she will have moments where her personality shines through and it warms my heart so much to hear her make a dirty joke or exaggerate a story.
I hope these gloves last me forever. If they ever finally do get completely destroyed I will save the shards of them to make something else myself.
It really makes me think back to how wonderful it is having someone put love into what they do for you. I think that all her time and physical energy that went into these gloves still resonates within them. Just putting them on makes me smile at this point. It makes me feel connected to her.
Every meal that she made, every game she played, every glove or blanket she knit was filled with love and that old world charm. I look at my heritage and I’m grateful. I’m grateful I have a culture and traditions. I’m grateful that she made me appreciate everything and every day because it made me who I became.
They say don’t let your past decide your future…but more importantly never forget where you come from.
Any other person who would come upon these gloves would just think of them as a poorly knit pair made by some amateur. These were knit by a woman who knit for decades and did so well she would sell things that she’d made. She could knit anything perfectly and with impressive features. If my grandmother bought me a pair of gloves 15 years ago I probably wouldn’t have had them for this long. These gloves though, these are an important pair of gloves to me. I tell everyone who matters to me about these gloves if I happen to have them on. I’ve had them half of my life…I can’t imagine winter without them.
Update: When I went to Boston after this post I brought the gloves. I showed them to my grandmother and told her she made them. She looked at them and studied them a long time before she said anything. Then she shrugged and said “It must have been a long time ago, I can’t imagine making something like that.”