The Red Sweater (fiction)

Ever since I’ve retired, I’ve taken up several hobbies. Crocheting kept me busy in my early 60s. By the time Christmas 1995 rolled around, I was able to crochet everyone in my family a nice scarf. I made a small cute one for the baby. Well, she’s not a baby anymore. Her name is Tina. She’s 20 and in her second year at community college. I made a purple one for Tanya, Tina’s older sister. She’s going on 25. The best one I made, I like to call it “my masterpiece,” was a bright red, two-strand, chunky cowl for my only daughter, Therese. Sixteen rows, a few slip-stitches and half-double crochets later, and there it was, “my masterpiece.” Therese doesn’t know this, but she almost didn’t get it. I was so proud of that thang that I thought long and hard about keeping it for myself.

After I mastered crochet, I settled on learning how to needle point. You know the library gives what they call continuing education classes to anybody in the community. All these years, and I had to wait until I was retired and nearly 70 before I found out. Every Wednesday, Elder Helpers would pick me up at 10 A.M. sharp and take me five miles to the library. I spent two hours a week with the group learning how to work the pattern. All I needed was my different color yarn, a pattern and a needle. By the end of the few weeks, I had made me a nice pink and yellow butterfly. Gave that one to Tanya, so she could hang it up in Tayler’s room; that’s her baby.

Now that I’m almost 80, I decided to take up knitting. The library didn’t have the class, so I signed up at Michael’s. It wasn’t too far. The classes last ‘bout two and a half hours. I guess I took to needle point and crochet so good that knitting didn’t seem to be too hard for me. Learned just in time too cause Tina called the other day and said she’s expecting a little boy. I got so excited I called up Elder Helpers to ride me to the park every Saturday so I can work on this little, red sweater for him. Oh dear, I dropped one of my knitting needles.

“Here, ma’am,” a middle-aged man picked up the fallen knitting needle.
“Thank you, baby,” she replied. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said.
I wiped away the tear that nestled in the corner of my right eye. I knew if Pam saw it, then it would start a fight. She never understood why certain triggers made me well up with emotion. The sight of the small, red sweater reminded me of the stillborn baby my first wife and I had to bury. His name was Reginald, Reginald Junior. We were going to call him RJ. She had miscarried twice before, but this time there was hope. The doctors promised that if she relaxed and stayed off of her feet, then everything should go well. We were so hopeful.

Shelley made it all the way past 24 weeks. We figured it was safe to start buying things. We painted RJ’s room red and navy blue. Shelley’s dad came over and helped me put together a cherry-wood, four-in-one crib. It was supposed to be one of those beds that stays with him and converts into a toddler bed and then a full-size bed with a headboard. RJ would have it for a long time.

Towards the end of November, Shelley’s best friend gave her a baby shower. The Thomas the Train theme helped to finish the rest of the room’s decorations. RJ had sheets, a blanket, curtains, a nightlight, lamp, and even a carpet. The mini-train set that Shelley’s dad put together was set up on a circular table off to the side. Shelley’s mom had tucked a special gift that she’d been working on deep into her emergency hospital bag. RJ had everything a little boy might want.

Shelley was 30 weeks. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was December 1, 2000. We just knew that we would be bringing RJ home that day. Shelley said she felt different. But I didn’t know what she meant. Her face was so swollen that she was unrecognizable. She couldn’t hold any food down. I grabbed the emergency bag and drove us to the hospital. What happened next is a blur. It began with the doctor admitting her for an emergency C-section and ended with RJ being born, but not breathing.

We more than cried. We held each other close. We held RJ’s lifeless body. We wailed that day. And when Shelley was finally able to rest, I reached into the emergency hospital bag and found the special gift from her mom: a small, knitted, red button-downed sweater, just big enough for RJ. We buried him in it.

“Are you crying?” Pam asked.
“No. It’s my allergies. You know it’s pollen season,” Reginald answered.
I know he’s lying. Every time we pass by a baby stroller, baby, baby store, or anything baby related, he breaks down in tears. If we’re watching a movie and there’s a baby in it, then he sobs. I told him a dozen times that if he cries one…more…time…I’m out. He told me all about losing the baby, but that was fifteen years ago! Even his wife, what was her name? Sherry or something, even Sherry left him because he couldn’t get over losing their child. That’s what he told me anyway. All I know is as soon as we get back to his condo, I’m packing up all of my stuff and leaving. Six months of his out of control emotions is enough.

12 thoughts on “The Red Sweater (fiction)

  1. OMG! This is brilliant. I loved every part of it. It was a seamless story and pulled you write in. I still have to finish mine, which I am doing now. After I look at a few to get an idea how to write it. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

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