Pain Free Quilting




She awoke with a stitch in her neck. When she took a deep breath, pain ran down her arm. When she breathed normally, the pain was relieved. "Honey, I have a stitch in my neck, she said."

Now, obviously, I could have asked my Darling Wife all kinds of silly questions and made some mean comment about her sewing ability and misplaced stitches, but I saw the look of agony on her face when the pain struck, and any thought of making light of her misery disappeared.

"You must have slept wrong," I suggested. "It'll go away."

"You'll probably have to rub it for me."

"All right." I rubbed her neck. "Is that better?" I asked after a minute.

"Yes, but it needs more rubbing."

"How much more?" I asked, wary now.

"You need to rub my neck while I'm quilting."

"That long?"

"Only for about three days. I'm almost finished with this wall hanging."

"I can't rub your neck for three days," I said honestly. My hand, aging along with the rest of my body, already hurt.

"Five minutes, then," she said.

"I'll try."


That should have been the end of it, but all during the day she would take a deep breath and yell out in pain. She would sneeze and yell out in pain. Finally, the pain came even when she wasn't sneezing or coughing. "My arm hurts," she said that evening. "All the time."

"Take something for it. You should be all right in the morning. After all, it's just a regular stitch," I said. It wasn't an appliqué stitch or an embroidery stitch or a feather stitch. She would have told me if it were.

"What should I take?" she asked.

"Try acetylsalicylic acid or acetaminophen or ibuprofen," I suggested generically.

"All right."


In the morning her arm still hurt. "I didn't sleep all night," she said. "Every time I turned, my arm hurt."

"What about your neck?" I asked.

"That hurts, too, but it's not too bad. I took everything you suggested, but I still have the pain."

"You took all three medicines?"

"Not at the same time."

"You'll have to go the doctor Monday," I said.

"That's two more days," she said between gritted teeth, her face tight with the pain.

"You can try taking something else," I said.

"What else do we have?" she asked.

"I have three Vicodin left over from my root canal in January," I said. (Vicodin is a brand name for Hydrocodone, a semisynthetic narcotic analgesic similar to codeine.)

"I don't like drugs," she said.

"How much do you like the pain?" I asked.

"Give me one," she said.


She took one of the Vicodin and waited for it to work. While she waited she went back to her quilting, the pieces of it still spread over her work table where she had left off the night before.

I looked in on her an hour later. She was smiling and sewing small pieces of brightly colored fabric into a strip for binding. I watched her chain-stitch several pieces together and together again. She sewed two pieces together twice and three pieces together five times.

"You all right?" I asked as she put another piece of fabric in line. Almost.

"Just fine," she said. I think she said that. It sounded like, "Jussshhfun."

"Your arm better?"

"Some of it," she said.

"Which some?"

"Idonno," she said.

"Are you all right?" I asked.

"Fiiiine," she said, and she giggled.

"Maybe you shouldn't be quilting now," I said. She had begun to resew the same pieces together again, so the strip now looked something like a cross between a pyramid, a pair of socks, and a cheese sandwich.

"I'm quitting good," she said. "My neck is gone now."

"You're quilting good and your neck and arm feel better?"

"My quilt is feeling no pain."

"How many pills did you take?" I asked.

"I only had one Viking." she said. "I'm binding my time now," she sang as she lifted the binding she was working on for me to see.

"I think you should go lie down," I said.

"Nopeff," she said, which I took for diasagreement. "I need to finsh," she added clearly as she turned back to her sewing machine. I reached past her and turned it off. Desperate times demanded desperate measures.

"I'll help you up," I said, happy that she was pain free, wondering if I had not come into her room whether she would have sewed herself into one long happy strip of binding.

"I'm up," she said as she sat in her chair. She let me lift her to a standing position, but she still held onto several pieces of fabric.

I led her to bed and lay her down and puffed the pillow gently for her head. "Rest," I said, a soft and gentle command from the doctor.

"Yessseee," she whispered, and she closed her eyes.


I left her and went outside to water the new dwarf grapefruit tree I had planted back in March. When I was done I looked in on her. She was not in her bed. I ran to her sewing room. It was only a few feet away, so I made good time. But I was already too late. She was back at her sewing machine and she had on her quilting gloves and was pushing a two foot square piece of batting through the machine. She was intent on her work, but she looked up a moment as I came close.

"I'm manderin," she said. I looked at what she was doing, and sure enough, she was meandering all over the piece of batting. Batting. No quilt top, no quilt back.

"I'm not crossing over," she said, and she stopped a moment to point out the stitching to me. It was all over the place, the stitching crossing over at every curve, every turn.

"Back to bed," I said.

"I have to quit," she said.

"Yes, you do."

"I don't hurt," she said.

"No, I don't suppose you do," I said.

"That was a good vitamin," she said. "I can quill pain free."

"Yes, you can," I said.

I put her to bed and flushed away the other two Vicodin. Then I took two aspirin and called her doctor in the morning.

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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