First Sock Thrills

April 16, 2019

I’ve written before about the thrill that comes from knitting your first sock, but it never gets old — at least, not for me, even as an observer.

I love watching a knitter create a heel flap and, round by round, make a gusset, and then catch her breath as she works the foot before painstakingly grafting the last stitches of a toe together (which usually involves a bit of cursing and deep breathing).

Yesterday morning, Barbara grafted the toe of her first sock, using the nifty alternative Kitchener stitch that I “discovered” earlier this year.

I don’t know why this technique results in smoother toes since the movement of the yarn is the same as with the traditional Kitchener stitch, but it does.

Although this first sock — and its eventual mate — will be worn by Barbara’s husband, she couldn’t resist trying it on herself. Just lovely!

A quick swish in the sink with gentle dish soap, a wrap in a dishtowel, and it was ready a couple of hours on the blocker. The photo below most accurately shows the yarn’s beautiful interplay of teal, cream, and brown/black.

As the Fearless Knitter she is, Barbara immediately cast on the next sock, in order to stave off a bout of Second Sock Syndrome.

Out and About

April 15, 2019

No matter how cold, snowy, or long the winter, Spring always arrives eventually. And the glory of the season never fails to amaze and lift my spirits — and, based on conversations with friends and chats with strangers on the street, I’m not the only one.

Last Saturday, Patrick, Mom, and I drove to Castle Island — which is neither a castle nor on an island — for a couple of hours of enjoyment in the cool sunshine

From a bench, we marveled at planes taking off from and landing at the airport across the harbor, commented on the hundreds of people (and plenty of dogs) passing by on foot, scooter, stroller, bike, and wheelchair. We didn’t count, but I’d estimate that we overheard conversations in at least a dozen languages.

Being his usual generous self, Patrick stood in the very long line at the storied snack bar in order to buy our first soft serve ice creams of the year. Mom had a twist in a cup. Patrick and I shared a cone.

Back at Mom’s apartment, the knitting continues. Even as I was getting the hang of the House Greyjoy sock pattern, I had to suppress a nagging fear that it would be too small for the intended recipient. The leg looked so narrow.

Nevertheless I persisted, ignoring that inner voice of doom and reminded myself that yarn (like humans) usually relaxes after a bath. Sure enough, after a good soak and blocking on my new frame, it relaxed quite nicely, revealing the cable and twist details.

House Greyjoy knit sock

As usual, the second sock is progressing faster than the first although I still have to check each row with the pattern chart. If you knit cables or lace, do you follow a chart or row-by-row instructions?

marked-up pattern chart for knitting

WIP Wednesday: Not What You Expect

April 3, 2019

Work in Progress (WIP) is shorthand among crafters for a current project, something that you’re knitting, sewing, painting, making. The understanding in sharing updates on WIPs is that progress is being made — that you’re another step or so closer to finishing.

#WIPWednesday is a chance to share such progress — for example, a sock that now has a heel and part of a gusset.

Knit sock showing heel and gusset

I’ve said before that part of what I love about knitting is finishing. This is especially true when the rest of life is filled with repetitive undertakings that can seem never ending.

Yet some of those WIPs are the most valuable. Take this little guy, a Work in Progress of the highest order.

Young William arrived a couple of weeks ago, and, according to his completely smitten (and very wise) grandmother Pat, his favorite snuggly item is her most recent project — this lovely blanket.

Baby wrapped in knit blanket and lying on man’s lap

GoT Socks?

April 2, 2019

I’m not a convert to toe-up socks, but learning several new techniques — and practicing my ripping out and reknitting skills — made the Frasier Fir Socks worth the effort.

two green knit socks hanging on sock blocking frames

The tree (or is it a branch?) detail along the leg is particularly charming. I may incorporate it into a hat some day — or maybe along the back of mittens. The yarn color is more true in this detail than the one above.

detail of pattern along leg of green knit socks

Even before I’d finished the Frasier Firs, my fingers and mind were eager to cast on something new with the lovely Game of Thrones-inspired yarn from Bumblebee Acres.

Keeping with my theme of trying new things and going full steam ahead into the GoT mode, I searched Ravelry for a similarly-inspired sock pattern. As usual, the Ravelry community did not disappoint.

Not being at all familiar with Game of Thrones, I have no idea if the yarn (Brienne of Tarth colorway) is compatible in a literary sense with the House Greyjoy pattern. But I really like the cables and twists.

All the twists and cables make it seem quite small — perhaps too narrow for the leg of the intended recipient — but I’m quite sure that it’ll fit. At least, it “fits” my arm when I’ve tried it on.

The irony is not lost on me that one of the benefits of toe-up socks is that you can try them on as you go, something that’s much more difficult with my favorite top-down socks on DPNs. I’m nothing if not consistent in my routines!

The Thrill of New Yarn

March 28, 2019

Like most knitters, I love to get new yarn. It can be downright thrilling. Can you relate?

Being an introvert and one who thinks a lot about motivation and emotion — mostly mine but also others’ — I have a theory about why new or stashed* yarn brings such delight.

All things are possible with new yarn.

I could make almost anything with this — that is, anything that’s possible with the amount of yarn I have. There are no mistakes yet, no dropped stitches or flubbed patterns. The yarn doesn’t split as I knit nor does it slip or snag. Nothing is too large or too small.

The potential for this — whatever this I choose — to be the most exquisite, perfect, wonderful creation that will bring joy to its recipient and all who encounter it is infinite.

Like these two skeins of Squishy Sock yarn from Bumblebee Acres Fiber Farm.

close up of two skeins of sock yarn in shades of blue, yellow, grey, and brown

They’re part of the farm’s Game of Thrones-inspired colorways. On the left is “Brienne of Tarth” and on the right is “Missandei.” I’ve never read or watched GoT, but both Kevin and Hannah are big fans. Before I bought the yarn, I consulted Hannah to see if these characters are good guys. Heaven forbid I knit with yarn inspired by a villain! She assured me that they’re not just good guys — they’re good women.

My plan is to make socks for Kevin’s upcoming graduation. Not that I expect him to wear them during the ceremony, but a mother can dream.

Even the packaging that arrived on my doorstep made me happy. How cute is this?!

mailing envelope with bright polka dots and label "You've got bee mail!"

Barbara introduced me to Bumblebee Acres Farm, having spotted their beautiful yarns on Instagram. Go follow them. Or better yet, go to their shop. Just to browse, of course.

At yesterday’s sock lesson, Barbara made great progress on her first ever heel flap — in the Eye of Partridge pattern no less.

close up of knit sock heel flap using eye of partridge stitch pattern

*It’s my experience that, at some point, yarn in one’s stash loses its thrill. It can begin to feel more like a nagging chore. “I’ve been stuck here in this drawer for ages. When are you going to use me?” I don’t know when that turning point is — when, as the great B.B. King sang “the thrill is gone.” Knitters, what are your thoughts?

WIP Wednesday: Log Cabin

March 27, 2019

When I started the Log Cabin Throw, the intended recipient’s arrival seemed far off. Probably because it was. But Baby-to-Be is due in just about two weeks, so I’d best pick up the pace.

detail of knit log cabin blanket in grey, light blue, and navy

Since it’s knit from the center out, each segment is about seven inches longer that the one it’s “stacked” on. The entire piece will be much bigger than the usual baby blanket, but I envision a loving adult wrapping her- or himself and the baby in this cozy item.

As predicted, the second Frasier Fir Sock is moving along quickly. I’ve just started the cuff bind off. On the theme of trying new things, the pattern calls for the Invisible Ribbed Bind-off for some extra stretch at the cuff.

I’m heading off for a sock knitting lesson later this morning with dear friend Barbara — she of the beautiful Eleventh Hour Marled Blanket. Today’s lesson plan: heel flap and turning the heel.

What’s on your needles today?

Getting the Hang of It

March 26, 2019

One of Mom’s regular sayings when we were growing up (she had lots of them) was “anything is easy if you know how.” Brother Mike and I agreed recently that we considered this perky adage downright frustrating and unhelpful, especially when we were struggling with a challenge.

But I must admit, as I’ve realized over the intervening decades, that Mom was on to something. Take the Frasier Fir Sock pattern for example. My first attempts — there were several — at this new pattern and heel technique nearly drove me bonkers.

But I persisted. And switched to a different heel option. And ripped back a few rounds after mixing up the right twist and left twist stitches. Eventually, sock #1 was done.

I’m mature enough to admit that my mother was right about a lot of things, things I rolled my eyes at or muttered under my breath when I was younger.

Must admit that this sock pattern is easier now that I know how.

knitted sock in green yarn on circular needle, resting on laptop keypad

Family Weekend

March 25, 2019

Every so often I remind myself how fortunate I am to live near many members of my extended family and, even more so, that we love and enjoy spending time together.

Saturday evening, we gathered to celebrate Luke’s birthday with the usual delicious food, lively conversation, laughter, and of course, cake. His family has a traditional birthday cake, a scrumptious sour cream chocolate chip bundt cake topped with our cousin Tom’s grandmother’s chocolate glaze. Did you follow that or shall I draw a family tree?

old woman, two men, holding birthday cake with candles

Ben and Mom did the cake honors while Nora took care of the photography. Mary had prepared the meal, and Jim, Hank, and Mike were part of the chorus.

Sunday really felt like spring had sprung here in Greater Boston. Mild temperatures and a gentle breeze brought many people outdoors just to enjoy, well, being outdoors.

On our walk around the neighborhood after Mass, Mom and I spotted a few crocuses (croci?!) and dewdrops pushing through the mulch.

close up of purple crocus flower with bee on yellow stamen

As Mom’s ability to make sense of the world decreases, she increasingly focuses on physical details, like tearing each piece of junk mail into small strips before putting them into the recycling or zipping or buttoning every item of clothing when she puts it on a hanger. I remind myself that she’s controlling what she can, a comfort (I imagine) as she’s able to make sense of less and less each week.

Tidying (not full-fledged weeding) of gardens or plants that we encounter on our walks is a regular activity now that the snow is gone.

old woman in green coat next to stone wall, clearing dead plants from grassy garden

After lunch, we drove the 1/2 mile to the Arnold Arboretum and walked to the summit of Peter’s Hill, a wonderful spot to view the Boston skyline. More than a dozen other people had the same idea, jogging, walking, cycling, kite flying, and just sitting to enjoy the sensations of spring.

woman in green coat standing on hill overlooking Boston skyline in distance

Back home after supper, Patrick and I gathered around the computer for a five-person video chat with Hannah, Kevin, and Michael. Say what you will about how frustrating technology can be — and I’ve said plenty — but the chance to take a break from daily life — whether it’s laundry in Brooklyn, a group engineering project outside Philadelphia, or NCAA hoops in New Orleans — and talk with those who love you and know you best is damn near miraculous.

screenshot of group video chat

How’s the second sock coming along, you ask? That’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

WIP Wednesday: Almost a Sock

March 20, 2019

It only took two (or was it three?) attempts at the Frasier Fir Sock for me to realize that the “gusset and heel flap” and I were not at all compatible. After a self-imposed hiatus of a day or so, I switched to pattern option #2, the German Short-Row heel, and found we could get along quite nicely.

It’s been a while since I followed a chart, but it came back to me pretty quickly — although that whole “pay attention to what you’re knitting” thing was a bit challenging at times.

Checking off each row of the chart helped. I quite like this subtle evergreen pattern.

Perhaps I’ll add it as a variation in a future pair of top-down socks. Of course, I’d have to work the chart from the opposite direction…. We’ll see how that goes.

Sock #1 is nearly done. Although I’m not sure of her foot size, I’m pretty sure who the eventual recipient of this pair will be.

Yikes! The foot looks bigger than the leg, doesn’t it? I’m going to hope that it’s a photographic illusion and carry on with the ribbing.

Student Socks

March 14, 2019

If you’ve been reading this blog for even a short while, you know how much I enjoy teaching others how to knit. And I really love when my students — who by now are friends — send photos of their latests projects.

Like me, Judy spends a lot of time with her elderly parents, often with her knitting close at hand, at doctor’s offices, the hair salon, physical therapy appointments, or just being present at home. Socks are her go-to project for all the reasons you’d expect — portability being the most obvious.

Last week, she texted for help after turning the heel. See what she did here?

She knit when she should have purled — and vice versa. It’s not uncommon at all when knitting in the round — or one-sided like this heel — to pick up your needles and knit in the wrong direction. The result is purl bumps on the wrong side. Solution? TINK back those stitches and double check that you’re purling on the inside and knitting on the outside.

That’s what Judy did, and soon she was on her way — with sock in hand(s) on the bus to the airport.

Like I said, socks are uber-portable. I love the colors of the self-striping yarn that she’s using. My guess is that she’ll gift the socks to someone since they’re mid-calf length, not knee highs, which is her preferred length for herself.

There was no knitting in the next photo that Judy sent, but I’m pretty sure the sock was tucked away just out of the camera’s view.

If only I could have made a knitting beach house call….

WIP Wednesday: Time Out

March 13, 2019

As I ripped out the heel and attempted gusset of the Frasier Fir sock for the third time yesterday, I had some serious doubts about my professed desire to learn new techniques.

I’d looked at several videos — multiple times each — in my attempt to figure out how the whole toe-up wrap-and-turn heel was constructed. When my third attempt at the wrap-and-turn yielded an uncentered heel, it clearly was time for a break.

The log cabin blanket is growing nicely as is the recipient, a baby-to-be who’s expected to arrive next month.

The mindless back and forth of the garter stitch was just what I needed.

I’ll be back for you soon, Frasier Fir.

Socks a New Way

March 11, 2019

When I donated a couple of bags of yarn from my stash to the knitting guild “yard sale” last month, I had no intention of bringing any new yarn home. Really. But how could I resist the Berroco Ultra Alpaca with these vibrant green with honey tones?

It seemed like the perfect yarn for the Frasier Fir Socks that I’d recently added to my Ravelry library. I’d done a noble job of resisting casting on the socks until I finished the Patches Baby Sweater. I returned from the joyous baby shower to discover that I’d neglected to take a photo of the finished sweater. This Instagram story pic of the buttons will have to suffice.

The Frasier Firs require two new-to-me techniques: Magic Loop and toe-up construction. My go-to socks are top-down and made with double-pointed needles (DPNs). No biggie, I thought, and then discovered the pattern also called for Judy’s Magic Cast-on.

OK, kind of biggie. After several views of Judy’s video and strategic pauses as I fiddled with the needles and yarn, I’d cast on and increased to the required number of stitches.

Or more precisely, I increased to what I thought was the required number of stitches. Nice thing about toe-up socks? You can try them on as you go, so you find out that you’re knitting the wrong size sooner.

After ripping out an inch or so and reading the pattern reeeeally carefully, I stopped the increase at the proper place and continued. As my Michael said years ago after I ripped out an entire sock for the second time, “it’s a good thing you like the process of knitting, Mom.”

Speaking of Moms, mine has some new yarn for her next garter stitch scarf. She doesn’t remember that it’s the same yarn she chose a month or so ago, and that doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful, and she loves the colorway.

My Work Here is Done

February 21, 2019

Have you ever heard an interview with a teacher of someone who’s being honored for a big accomplishment– like winning a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award — and the teacher marvels at the former student’s achievements?

That’s what I felt like when Marcia, my friend, neighbor, and former knitting student, showed me her nearly-complete Great American Afghan.

I know…breathtaking, isn’t it? And before you ask, she started the first block about 2 1/2 years ago. Of course, she’s knit many other beautiful projects since then: multiple pairs of socks, several fair isle sweaters (one of which involved her first game of “bind-off chicken”), several baby cardigans, and more.

Each of the 20 blocks is a work of art unto itself. Go ahead, zoom in, and you’ll see.

I’m particularly smitten with the Aran sweater block, which includes a beautifully detailed flat sweater.

Marcia took her first knitting class with me a mere three years ago. Clearly, she got the hang of it pretty quickly! As an accountant, she has a particular affinity for numbers, choosing to read through patterns and make sense of all the stitch counts before diving in.

She blocked each piece as it was finished and is now in the process of sewing them all together. She asked me whether she should block the border before connecting. I don’t know for sure, but since blocking is easy and almost always makes seaming easier, I said yes — and even suggested that she block the totally finished piece one more time. She nearly fell over but agreed to consider the idea!

Just amazing. Clearly, my work here is done.

WIP Wednesday: Log Cabin Throw

February 20, 2019

I’ve got two projects for babies-to-be going at the moment and am this close to casting on a new pair of socks with some lovely yarn that I got at the knitting guild yard sale. But baby knits have deadlines, so the socks shall wait.

As would be expected with bulky yarn, the log cabin throw is the faster growing of the two.

The back and front sections of the Patches Baby Sweater are done and blocking. I’ve started the first sleeve and decided to modify the pattern by knitting it in one piece rather than two segments.

Mom finished another garter stitch scarf yesterday. As you can see from her clothing, she’s quite partial to the crimson, fuschia, pink color range. Malabrigo never disappoints.

Spread a little love

February 14, 2019

Valentine’s Day has never been a big holiday in my family. Sure, my brothers and I would give little folded cards to elementary school classmates. And I think we had some decorations, probably handmade, that were taped up in the kitchen. But there were no big bouquets of roses, gifts, or candlelit dinners. Patrick had a similar experience, so that’s what pretty much what we’ve continued in our own families — although with some lovely flower bouquets.

It’s never been a stated philosophy, but when I think about it, we believe that love should be expressed every day, in ways — words and actions — large and small.

My Valentine’s knitting tradition (yes, knitting traditions are a thing) is to make a few little heart ornaments for family, friends, and acquaintances. All it takes is a few yards of scrap yarn and DPNs. I’ve used different patterns over the years — less seaming is better as far as I’m concerned.

Once you’ve made one, it’s a quick knit. Like most things in life, if you know how to do it, it’s easier.

The best part is giving these little hearts. Kind of like love, it feels great to give them away. I tucked one into a card for each of our three treasures. One is dangling on a doorknob in a Brooklyn apartment.

Earlier this week, I tucked a couple in my pocket as I went out for my morning jog/walk. I gave one to the barista at the coffee shop where I stop each morning; it was her birthday. Another was left for a beloved neighbor.

A small blue heart, made from leftover sock yarn, graces a fake plant on a dresser — along with treasures from New England.

Being reminded of the love around us — that it’s there even when we may not feel it — is a very, very good thing. Today and every day.

Knitting Across Generations

February 7, 2019

I didn’t hesitate when my friend Jen texted to ask if I could help her daughter finish a blanket she’d knitted. She was returning to college in a couple of days and wanted to mail it off to a friend who could use some TLC from a long-distance buddy.

While I didn’t know what pattern Itsy was knitting, I suspected that it was the deliciously squishy Eleventh Hour Marled Blanket from Purl Soho.

I’m not psychic, but I can put two and two together — and these two were Itsy and Barbara, granddaughter and grandmother. You may recall that I’d helped Barbara (aka Baba) with the finishing touches of her blanket, the border of which provided me with a significant learning experience.

It didn’t take long for Itsy to get the hang of the attached i-cord border. Of course, it took quite a while to work her way around the entire blanket. But it was definitely worth it.

The photo doesn’t capture the soft green and deep navy color combination. You’ll just have to trust me on how exquisite it is. Or look at the smile on Itsy’s face. As she modeled the finished product, I couldn’t help but marvel at the pride of a handmade project and the love that would envelope her distant friend every time she wraps herself in its soft warmth.

Last week, after she finished her latest garter stitch scarf, Mom and I headed to J.P. Knit & Stitch for some new yarn and a visit with the Friday afternoon knitters. As usual, Mom chose a bright variegated yarn — this time, a sock yarn from Lemonade Shop, colorway is Alternative Facts.

Reminds me of cotton candy.

Patching it Together

January 31, 2019

Once I realized that my self-striping sock yarn wouldn’t work for a top-down baby sweater — because the body would be too large for the colored sections to become stripes — I searched for a new pattern. As usual, I spent a long time down the rabbit hole that is Ravelry but eventually found a good match for a baby cardigan made with sock yarn: Patches Baby Sweater

Lucky for me, the library had a copy of Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders, so I didn’t need to buy the pattern. But I must admit I’m tempted to buy the whole book. As my stash can attest, I’ve got quite an affinity for sock yarn!

The sweater is constructed from a series of knitted strips that are joined as you go.

After I’d knit the first strip (on left in photo above), I decided that I wanted the sweater to have more variety than a series of equally-sized stripes/blocks would provide. So for the second strip (on right), I starting knitting with two balls of yarn, which gave me the option to choose the width of the stripes.

If you follow from the lower border, you can see that after knitting the gray garter stitch border, I knit six rows of blue stockinette stitch, then switched to four rows of gray, then four blue, then six rows of yellow.

The joining isn’t always quite as smooth as I’d like, but I’m getting the hang of it as I go. Here’s the back after three strips.

Yesterday evening, after I’d bound off the third strip and wove in the end, I realized that it was a row or two shorter than strip #2. And, to make matters worse, I realized strip #2 was a couple rows shorter than the first strip!

There’s no way I’m going to rip all this out. Instead, I think I’ll just pick up the bound off edge and add a couple rows. Stay tuned for how that goes!

In other knitting news, Mom finished another garter stitch scarf.

This one is made with a bright, beautiful worsted from Lady Dye Yarns. The colorway, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, is discontinued, but you should definitely check out her beautiful yarns, project bags, and pins. How great are these?! Click on the images to see more of her great products.

knitters pins from Lady Dye Yarns

Starting Over with Stripes

January 25, 2019

Since I loved the Blue Striped Rag self-striping sock yarn so much, I figured I’d use it for a little sweater for a Baby-to-Be coming in a couple months.

Lesson learned: self-striping sock yarn really is intended for socks (or maybe sleeves on a baby sweater )

At first, all seemed to be going well as I cast on the top-down Garter Yoke Baby Cardi — although I decided pretty quickly that I’d skip the garter yoke part. I just didn’t like the way the color transitions looked in garter stitch.

So I switched to stockinette stitch and began the increases — adding a stitch on the outer side of each of the 8 markers.

As I’d expected, as the sweater got bigger, with more stitches in each row, the stripes got thinner. That seemed OK at first, but then the stripes started to look really wonky — at one point, not even extending all the way across the width of the sweater.

See what I mean?

That just wouldn’t do — at least, as far as I’m concerned.

So I ripped it out and went in search of a new pattern, one that’s knit in pieces (front sides, back, separate sleeves) and then stitched together. I think I’ve found one in Patches Baby Sweater. But the library won’t have the book for me until tomorrow, so I can’t be sure.

In the meantime, I’ve been knitting a baby blanket for a different Baby-to-Be who’s due to arrive in a couple of months: the Log Cabin Throw from Knit Picks.

Lesson learned from this project: bulky yarn knits up waaaay faster than sock yarn.

But you knew that, right?

Striped Socks in Pairs

January 20, 2019

I don’t set New Year’s resolutions, knitting or otherwise. Occasionally, I’ll send an intention, often vague, into the universe — “try not to worry so much” or “live more mindfully” or “don’t buy new yarn until you’ve used at least as much from your stash.”

Just kidding about that last one.

But even though I’ve not set a “sock of the month” goal, I’m quite pleased and a bit surprised that my first socks of 2019 are knit and blocked.

Yarn is Patons Kroy Sock in Blue Striped Ragg with contrasting toe and heel in an anonymous yarn from aforementioned stash. They’re now wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away for someone special.

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while have seen a few of friend Judy’s socks, starting with her very first sock about five years ago when she took my knitting class. She’s made many pairs since, including this lovely pair of knee socks (her preferred length for her own socks), which she modeled at the gym this week.

She’s puzzled — and a bit bothered — by the relative droopiness of the left one, but since they’re knee socks, no one will know. Except you, of course, and I know you won’t say a thing.

Hands and Hearts

January 18, 2019

One of my life’s treasures is friendships that span decades — women (mostly) who’ve shared the ups, downs, and in-betweens, who can burst into laughter at the mere mention of a childhood memory and whose knowing glance and touch at long-ago or present pain is a balm. Trusting these friendships will last into our old age brings me hope and comfort.

As Mom’s mind continues to decline, her world shrinks. While she has many dear friends and one remaining sister, her speech, memory, and processing abilities are so diminished that she’s unable to stay connected with most.

Joe and Betty are the exception. Friends for more than 60 years, back in their medical and nursing school days, they’ve stayed close and have a comfort and ease with each other like no others.

So a couple of weeks ago, we drove north to their home in Maine for a visit and sleepover. Of course, we brought our knitting. Mom’s latest garter stitch scarf is made with some beautiful Malabrigo (or maybe Manos del Uruguay), a Christmas gift from beloved granddaughter Nora.

Joe is mostly home bound, his Parkinson’s-like disorder has stolen his movement and slowed his speech. Strong of body and mind, Betty is his main caregiver, assisted lovingly by their son and daughter-in-law who live nearby. She’s a talented knitter, too, working on several hat and scarf sets for Special Olympics Maine.

As Betty and Mom got supper ready, I pulled my chair close to Joe’s and settled in with our wine (me) and whiskey (him) for a chat. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, he shared his perspective on medical training — how he became a pediatrician during his Navy service and later a pathologist — and memories, many of my father, who was one of Joe’s closest friends and a trusted colleague.

Joe was my and my brothers’ pediatrician until I was about 6 or 7. I told him that one of my earliest memories was me lying on our kitchen table at age 3 or so and having a doctor — was it Joe? — lance my close-to-bursting ear drum lest it burst itself. He didn’t recall that procedure and suggested it was another doctor. But he did recall clearly performing his very first lumbar puncture (spinal tap) on me when I was an infant and suffered a febrile convulsion.

Slowly and haltingly, he shared an intense conversation with my father, who had asked him to do the tap, telling him that he’d never performed the procedure and explaining the risk of infection and complications. Despite his current limitations, he clearly conveyed the urgency and intimacy of that long-ago conversation. I can only imagine the fear they both felt at the time and the utmost trust they had for each other.

As Mom dozed on the drive home the next day, I went over our visit — the warmth and ease of being with people who know you so well and love you so profoundly — and my conversation with Joe in particular.

Tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of my father’s death, and while I think of him — and even talk to him — often, I realize that I rarely talk with his friends, those who knew him as an adult, a colleague, a too-short-but-still-lifelong friend. Joe’s memories gave specificity to the general “he was a great man” view of my father. Our visit with Betty and Joe wasn’t just a fun overnight; it was a gift I’ll treasure forever.

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