I wrote this as a tribute to Grandma Besemer. Grandma was an amazing woman, and very special to me because of the wonderful gift she shared with me.
Who taught you to knit? For me it was my Grandma Besemer. Starting in fourth grade I used to walk over to Grandma’s house after school and stay until my mom got out of work. I remember everything about her apartment, the way it smelled, the handmade doilies and afghans on the couch, I remember her silverware, her small kitchen table and the coffee mugs hanging on the rack, I remember the claw foot tub in the bathroom and the bubble bath she used. I remember in the spring how thousands of violets would cover her yard and I would always pick some for her. I remember Grandma’s rocking chair, it was by the window for good light. I would come in and she was always, always working on something. There would be stacks of baby sweaters and mittens piled all around her for the church bazaar. Once in a while a quilt would be pieced out on the floor, but as long as I can remember, Grandma always had knitting needles in her hand.
I would arrive and start my homework. Homework was always intimidating with Grandma; after all she was a retired 4th grade teacher. Sometimes Aunt Martha, who taught English, would be there too. They would correct me whenever I said, “Me and my friend”. I would hear a chorus of, “My friend and I.” To this day I am always correcting my own family. Sometimes we would play Yahtzee and drink tea when my homework was done. Grandma would make me tea, and when I would ask for sugar she’d tell me you don’t need sugar in your tea…and then hand me a couple of Oreos. I thought it was fun, little did I know it was Grandma’s secret plan to help my pitiful adding skills.
After a while we would sit in the living room and knit. She would cast on my stitches and get me started and then turn the TV off and have me sit on the couch and knit for fifteen minutes. I hated it; it was boring, and absolute torture. Each minute would crawl by, an eternity in every second. With each stitch I would pray that at least five minutes had passed. They never did. Finally my fifteen minutes would be up and she’d turn the TV back on and we’d watch Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, still both knitting away. My grandmother was handing down a skill, not just knitting, but patience. It’s funny because to this day I am still not a very patient person…unless I am knitting.
Last week we went home to NY for New Years. I went on Monday to visit my Grandma for the first time in two years. It was the first time I was able to see her since I have moved to PA. It wasn’t a great day for Grandma, she didn’t say anything, she just scowled at us, but that’s ok. It was good just to be there and sit with her. It was good to sit and knit in the presence of the woman who shared this amazing gift with me. I kissed her goodbye when it was time to go, and I told her that this year it would be twenty years ago that she taught me to knit. Twenty years ago my Grandma Besemer made me sit, and be still and quiet and passed on to me a skill that has served me better than any skill listed on my resume. She passed on to me a heritage. Last Sunday my Mom B. called to tell me that Grandma passed away that afternoon. My grandma is home now, she is free, and strong, and she can see, and she can talk again. She is with our Savior even now and I’ll bet she’s knitting, and so I can’t be sad. I can only say thank you Grandma, but thank you just doesn’t seem enough.