Sue, In Memoriam
Emotions are complex when somebody dies. Sometimes more so than usual. This morning I got word that my old friend Sue died yesterday, of a rare cancer. I didn’t know she was sick.
I’d known Sue since the mid-80’s, but we hadn’t spoken to each other in years. It was an odd friendship at the best of times: close for long stretches, then we’d have days when we couldn’t stand each other, then close again. We’d gone on trips and knitting retreats together, I’d been to her parents’s home, we emailed daily, several times a day. For years I felt certain that she always had my back, even on the snarly days.
Something shifted about six or seven years ago, and I’m not sure what. The last time I saw her she was openly bitchy, making fun of me in front of other people in the dance class we were attending when I didn’t execute a move perfectly. Not in a joking, friendly way. In a mean way. Not long after that we simply stopped talking to each other, the reasons on both sides unspoken. I don’t know why she was nasty to me that day, and I never will.
Sue was a knitter. She loved knitting and spinning so deeply that she worked for years to build a business out of it. (Yarnworks, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota–it’s currently for sale.) I know it made her happy, even though her business came to fruition after our friendship was over and we’d never talked about it. I’m glad it made her happy.
I was the person who taught her to knit. I can see her now, learning to cast on with pink yarn from a small town dimestore. It had to be about 1986 or 1987. With a group of other folks from the office where we both worked (neither of us understanding why we did this), we’d gone to one of those odd small town festivals–this one devoted to corn–and were staying the weekend in a cabin. Sue had been admiring my knitting for weeks and wanted to learn. That night we went out for dinner and got a bit bombed. Perfect time for a knitting lesson! Casting on’s much easier if you’re bombed!
She was unstoppable after that. Completely hooked. That woman seriously loved knitting. Now, we didn’t have the same taste most of the time, and to my eyes Sue often knit some tacky-ass stuff. But she loved it. And who can argue with such love for fiber and craft?
Devoted to knitting at a time when very few people were, we visited all the yarn shops in town regularly. We brought our knitting to the office and knit together at lunchtime. I still have photos from the retreat we went on with a third knitter–our great achievement of the weekend was actually finding yarn for sale–good wool!–in a small town hardware store.
I’m a bridge-burner by nature. When someone’s out of my life, that’s it. It. But I’m sorry that I heard too late to make contact with Sue and let her know that I wished her well, that I would never have wanted her to die so young, and in such a terrible way. See, even though we weren’t speaking I knew she was out there, spinning, knitting, part of the big cosmic handknit sweater of the knitting community. My community. I will miss her that way, and will miss her for the friendship we used to have.
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