My Adventures in Knitting, truly my Yarn-escape!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Knitting with Rockey the Artist


(Note: I did take the beads off I put on last week, I found they distracted from the whole, the beauty of the knit itself.  But I learned how to add them to an open lacework in a shawl.)

      Back at the beginning of May, I was asked to join a caregiving team of Rockey's, an elderly local artist in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  He's a local legend in Manitou and I've been a family friend since his granddaughter and my oldest daughter were best friends through Junior and High School and I became friends with her parents.  I really have few qualifications but that Rockey's daughter knew I would be a peaceful addition with my knitting and reading (and Rockey liked my singing when I sang to the Seniors' lunches years ago).

      So for the past month and half, I've occupied a corner chair in front of his studio's window, at the round table, surrounded by his artwork and sculpture and I'd knit.  Sometimes he sat with me, drinking Earl Grey tea and watching the town pass by as the sun fades (I think these were the most special days).  His studio looked out onto a busy sidewalk filled with tourists and the town clock across the street and the Episcopal church at an angle down the street.

Rockey's Blue House

     Often tourists would peak into the window or knock to come in and see his art.  One memorable time a small boy was peeking in and I let the family in.  The room next door was set up as an informal store with prints on the wall.  But the studio/sitting room was filled with storybook villages, a man's sculpted torso reaching to the ceiling, curios stuffed in every corner and paintings on every square inch of wall.  It literally takes days to take it all in (and I was still discovering things on the last day, an overlooked painting of houses scattered hodgepodge up to the mountain in autumn tones I could have looked at forever).  Old man and the young boy met and the boy was filled with wonder.  After exploring he ran out, his family left, but after a few moments, he ran back in to tell Rockey a storm was coming (his mom said he had to tell him).  Rockey smiled.

     Lilacs graced his table in June, their scent strong.  Picked from the little green park surrounding the clock.  Friends regularly dropping by.  One cafe owner came by to play his guitar, Spanish music that Rockey would bob his head to and smile with his eyes closed.  Time kinda paused.  Rockey was adamant about having no schedule.  And I knit.

     Later he would be lying down and I'd watch from a small monitor we would hide from him.  A balance to keep his privacy, give him space but protect him too.

     Throughout it all I knit.  I had my tablet open to a book but I'm uncertain if I actually got much more than half a page a day read, my eyes continually on the monitor angled visually over my book.  Calm would descend, I'd sip my tea, peak over my shoulder at the town at points and listen to the Mozart or Handel being played, and listen for Rockey, and knit.

     I think getting him to eat and drink became a game of sorts.  Can I lure him into taking a bite of something?  A sense of triumph if he ate a few bites.  We discovered fruit his favorite and he'd always have bowls of grapes and his favorite watermelon chunks to nosh on.  Watermelon and Rockey will be forever linked in my mind.  That and he always had several glasses of water and milk, a mug of tea, and his perpetually favored vanilla drink sitting there with a straw angled out.  A desperate struggle to get him to consume something, but ultimately a losing battle because it was time.

     Before Midnight on Father's Day, he passed quietly, painlessly.  The day before I think he woke only twice, to hug his son and later his older sister.  She's 90 (Rockey was 87) and she uses a walker.  Since she's a bit unsteady I was right behind her as she stepped toward her brother's bed.  Rockey had been still for most of the day.  Suddenly he stretches his arms out and pulls his sister down with a huge smile.  I'm crying.  My last memory of him awake.

     I knit in peace throughout it all.  Mozart floating around me.  A memory of Rockey's low voice echoes through my remembrances.  His smile that radiated such love.  A unique talented man.  He will be missed.  And I knit.

     My read this week is "Track of the Cat" by Nevada Barr.  The first in her long series of books about a park ranger/ sleuth in various National Parks.  Enjoying it tremendously.  I hope to pick up a few more in the beginning of the series from a second-hand book store for my vacation in July in the Adirondack Mountains.  I thought reading about murder mysteries placed in National Parks a good vacay read.  Her books are noted for their lush descriptions of nature.

Come Join Us at Unraveled Wednesday

All paintings by Charles Rockey


  1. This is a sweet post. Helping someone to the end of their life is an honor. The shawl is lovely and will forever remind you of this time.

  2. What a beautiful way to spend time with a person in their last days! I am deeply touched by this story and I agree with Jane, your shawl will be a beautiful reminder of a this time. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. arg!!!!! Murder in the National Parks ! YIKES. They are my place of peace. Oh well!
    Lovely tribute to the artist as an amazing man who was beautiful in his life and his death