At 1:00 a.m. they were asleep. He, on his right side, a single line from head to toe, his face relaxed; she, on her stomach and sprawled like a child with one foot dangling off the edge. But her head was near his, and her arm reached out to his, and they held hands through the night.

It had not been an easy evening. In fact, it had started on Friday when she came home to say that she might be laid off from her job due to budget cuts. From that moment the weekend was a like working with a knotted hank of yarn: a few yards of “normal,” interrupted by a tense spot (again!). It meant carefully working backward; it meant leaving lots of ragged ends to weave in later, when the fabric was more secure; it meant walking away sometimes just to get some emotional distance from the problem.

The problem wasn’t that there were knots; the problem was that this was an expensive hank of yarn in which they both had invested everything for more than 20 years. There had been other knots. Good grief, there had been other sections with many knots and there had been times when they both wanted to just rip out everything. But they had worked through them, learning to be gentle and patient. It was never easy, but they were committed to coming back and trying again.

Earlier that day she had been afraid again that they were at the end. He had walked out. He had never walked out before. In the past he withdrew into a huge shell and stayed there for days. But this time he had actually gotten up and walked out the door. “I have to leave,” he’d said.

He had felt overwhelmed by the reality that they both were growing older. There might be another 20 years of work to do on the blanket of their lives, but she was worried over the devastation that would likely follow if her job were gone. They had lost so much of their savings in the economic realities of the last 10 years, and they both were of an age considered “too old” by potential employers. She felt they needed to downsize themselves: clear out the clutter and find a small house in a little town where the taxes were not as high and the mortgage payments would be smaller. But he couldn’t face leaving. His family had moved around so much when he was young, and then he had moved around so much as an adult, and each time he had found it hard to make new friends. This house they had bought together was the first place he had ever felt was HOME.

The future is still uncertain. She does not have a definitive answer on whether she has a job, and she may not have an answer for another week, but yesterday a small miracle happened: he came back. He was gone only about 30 minutes, but he came back; and when he came back he didn’t withdraw. He said, “Let’s NOT talk about this for a while. Let’s talk about something else.”

So, they talked about other things. They pretended everything was normal, that the upset of the past few days had not happened. And then another little miracle occurred: He was willing to talk about it. He asked if she was willing to work with him. He asked if she was willing to help him find a way that they could continue to live in this house, and she said yes.

At 1:00 a.m. they were asleep. He, on his right side, facing her; she leaning to the right, leaning into him and holding on: it wasn’t a decrease so much as a new direction for the whole work. Do they need to increase somewhere else on the row to keep the number of stitches even, or is this one of those rows where the stitch count would differ from the cast-on edge? They don’t know, and it’s OK.

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