saw you and then I nearly remembered but I forgot my knitting so I had to go and get it and then..." J stopped and then went on, "I forgot what I was going to say."
She announced all of this in a loud voice which could probably be heard all over the library.
"And I forgot my hearing aids but now I remembered about knitting."
"Right J. Are you going to sit down?" I ask.
"Yes, I am going to sit down because now I remembered."
"That's good. Now, where's your knitting?" M, who knows her best, asks.
"I've got it here. I remembered it."
"Yes, you did. Now let us all have a look at it." M tells her.
"It's not very good."
"That doesn't matter," I tell her.
And so the conversation went on until J had her knitting her out and showed us the sad tangle of uneven, dropped and lost stitches.
And no it doesn't matter. J has arrived. She is with us. J has a CBI - a "closed brain injury". She is tall. She is overweight. She is not clean. She is loud.
She is often confused. She will stop mid-sentence because she forgets what she was going to say.
M, the one who knows her best, has told us that J was involved in a road accident and had severe concussion. That has undoubtedly led to many of her problems. I suspect from other things she has said that she had some problems before that as well.
Her life is now full of confusion. She lives "independently" in supported accommodation. What it really means is that someone watches out for her. They check on her daily. They tell her when to clean her living space and help her shop and prepare simple meals.
The women in the local charity shop try to ensure that she has clothes that fit but have admitted to me that they have ceased trying to get her to dress appropriately. She was wearing a cotton waist petticoat as a skirt recently. She thought it was "pretty because it has lace". When told it was a petticoat she was not in the least put out. For her it will continue to be a skirt. She was wearing it with short "rubber boots because they are shiny" and men's woollen socks "because it's cold on my feet".
Yes, we watch out for J but we don't always succeed in getting her to understand what is appropriate.
She could knit before her accident. The skill has stayed with her in the sense that she can still do the basic knit stitch. If her comments are anything to go by she knows her knitting is not good. She tellsus that the sad mess is going to be a "cardigan" and that the small left over balls in the tatty plastic bag are "enough". I know that the women in the charity shop have put aside those small balls for her to use. It isn't enough for a scarf let alone the cardigan she will never knit. My friend P, a tireless worker in the charity shop, has told J to come to her for some more when she has "knitted all that". I wonder if J will ever reach the end of that.
She sat down and knitted a row. Then she put her knitting away.
"Is that all you are going to do?" I ask.
She looks confused and says, "I finished."
"J, you can knit more than one row. Look, I've done all this today," M tells her.
On her other side R says, "And I have done this. Look that's fifteen rows."
"Oh. I can do another one then?"
"Yes, of course you can."
She takes out her knitting and does another row. There is silence while she does this because it requires some concentration on her part. It is the lapses in concentration which cause the problems.
I have tried to put myself into J's position. Her world must be constantly shifting in ways she does not understand. She cannot orient herself in the mist caused by her brain injury.
But she still needs companionship. She needs it more than ever so the rest of us need to go on telling her,
"You can do another row J."