Sunday, May 28, 2006

Aunt Sheila's Wrap/Shawl Finished Pics

Here are pictures of the shawl that I made for my Aunt Sheila. The pattern for this lovely wrap is from "Wrap Style" by Interweave Press. I used TLC Baby Yarn in Powder Lilac and the result is a really quite pretty. I am very happy with it and can't wait to send it to her. My Aunt Sheila was an OB/GYN nurse for decades and actually helped my mom through all of her pregnancies (6!!) over the years. Aunt Sheila's house was the best place for sleepovers! She'd wash our hair with her "special" shampoo and conditioners that always smelled amazing and made my hair feel like a million dollars. She'd give us little make up cases with Clinique eyeshadows and lipsticks :) She'd let us eat Dove Bars for breakfast and stay up late giggling. We'd play "fairies" on the stairs and pretend like the stairs were the hill where the fairies lived. She'd play these old records like the Red Baron and Peanut Butter and we'd dance like crazy.
Everything in her house always smelled so good. They always say that smells are your strongest memories, and I remember her place so well by the smell of the soap, the kitchen, even the smell of the couch. I also remember the way everything felt. So warm and cozy. The fabric of the pink chair in the room that everything was a dusty rose. I remember sitting in Grandpa's chair (which was in her living room). And I could smell this mixture of tobacco and time. Hard to explain, but that is the closest thing to a memory of Grandpa Gallagher that I have.
The majority of my memories of my Grandmother are in that house, too. My aunt was my Grandma's caregiver for most of my life. I would go over there on Saturday's and take care of my Grandma. Combing her hair, listening to her memories of growing up in Ireland and coming over here... praying the rosary with her and watching way way way too much Frank Patterson and singing along.
My aunt gave up a lot through the years, but never surrendered her personality, values, ideals, or interests. She loved budweiser over any of the fancy schmancy beers my dad brought over for family parties... and was the only woman I remember drinking bud or any beer when I was growing up. The image that that creates, though, is so contrary. She really loved all things exquisite and pretty. She loved fashion, but loved the fashion of Kate Hepburn and the images of the Victoria catalogue above all. She kept every outfit she ever loved. I remember her showing me the dress that she wore to my parents wedding - a smart outfit with a darling short, short skirt. An outfit that Jackie Kennedy wore, too. She'd tell me stories about going through great lengths to get THE outfit that was just the style. And laughing her marvelous laugh. Following up with a, "ohhhh gad!"
Right now, I live in the neighborhood that she lived in as she came of age as a young woman starting up a nursing career. I walk the streets that she walked... and both times that she visited me, we went to The Apple Pan, the first place she ate at in Los Angeles.
The story is that she drove out here from Ohio... seeking a change of scenery and a job. She drove with her friend Min (I am pretty sure), who told her that she could drive part of the way since my aunt was a brand new driver (my dad had taught her the prior week!). As it turns out, Min couldn't drive... so my Aunt drove the entire 3,000 odd miles in her in her pretty lil' vw bug . When they arrived, her feet were aching tired. First thing they did was have a burger at The Apple Pan.
My aunt did amazing things during her time here and really learned so much about life and the world. She read up on buddism and learned yoga. She met people from all over the world and so many cultures. She discovered yogurt, artichokes, and avocados :) And mexican food! Cleveland didn't get Mexican food until the latelatelate 70's, so, this is pretty impressive.
She and her friends from the Newman Center at UCLA formed a group of young, social activist Catholics. They posted flyers and worked together on various causes attempting to make the church a more welcoming, progressive place and helping those that were down on their luck.
When my aunt came out to visit a few years ago, I got to meet most of the members of this group. I felt like I was witnessing something truly unique and powerful. I was able to see her through their eyes - as a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman who changed other peoples lives through her thoughts and beliefs.
Recently, my aunt was diagnosed with alzheimers. She came out to visit with my Aunt Kay and Uncle Bob to help her cultivate her earlier memories, which frequently are the strongest. I was so terribly hurt and saddened to see that someone who was so articulate was having trouble with certain words and phrases. She gave me a package of yarn, some insanely 70's patterns and asked me to send them to my sisters who crochet (Bridgid and Betsy). She can't crochet anymore because of the alzheimers. She told me that if I wanted to learn, that I could learn from her books. I did send them on, but first I taught myself how to crochet... wanting desperately to connect with her.
She now is living in a community that specializes in alzheimers, and it is a truly amazing place for her. I know that it is the right thing, but it's hard because I wish that her house could remain as is. From what I hear, she is doing beautifully and very happy. She is able to do things like yoga (which I doubt she ever thought would come to Cleveland) and dance and make friends. I have been told that she is very much like herself, but like herself when she was younger... which is kind of nice. It's as if she gets to have a carefree adulthood and feel like a little girl.
Sure, that's idealizing it, but it is the only way that I can cope with it right now. I think that alzheimers really throws my faith (already dwindling) for a loop. I am trying to see that her soul is untouched by this disease. That the amazing soul that loved me and made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world (c'mon... dove bars for breakfast!) is still there. I just really hope that the powers that be can git their sh** together and come up with a cure!
Anyway, the shawl made me think of her as soon as I saw the pattern. It's so intricate and complicated, but yet decidedly feminine and girlish. I hope that I can get some pictures of her wearing it, but I can't promise anything. If I can, I will post them here.