One Afghan, Many Roles

Ever since I worked at Fordham University, I have aced any trivia question that involves the word “sesquicentennial.” I was fortunate enough to be a Fordham employee when the university celebrated its 150th birthday in 1991. As part of the celebration, we were given commemorative blankets depicting the university.

I wonder who was the first person to touch the threads that became part of these blankets, who wove them into finished products, how many people were part of their journey to the Bronx and into my hands.

I loved my Fordham blanket. It followed me back to Tallahassee after Wayne and I got married and had a prominent place in our living room. It wasn’t just decorative, though; it comforted me through many naps and illnesses.

The Blanket and Dad

At some point during Wayne’s dad’s stay with us over the past three years, the Fordham blanket became his go-to covering as he sat in his chair and watched tv. I can’t say I was especially happy about this turn of events. The latter years for Dad were signified by a serious decline in his personal hygiene habits; at some point the blanket developed a hole in it. I, again, was not happy about this but put the blanket’s downfall into the “it is what it is” category. We had too many other things going on to fret about it.

In the couple of weeks prior to Dad’s move to Hospice House, he started carrying blankets with him from the chair to his bed, security-blanket style. Anything near was fair game. The Fordham blanket especially, but if there was another blanket around, it went too.

About ten days before his move to Hospice House, on a Saturday, Dad sat for lengthy periods of time, pulling individual threads of the Fordham blanket out, obsessively. I’m sure this was a signal of his cognitive decline. The Hospice nurses helped us adjust his anti-anxiety medications, which helped with the obsessiveness a bit, but the blanket was none the better for this episode.

A Final Comfort

When Dad’s condition declined so much (and space available in Hospice House allowed), he was moved there (on June 27). I wasn’t home, but I understand the nurse and social worker encouraged us to send the Fordham blanket with Dad to provide continued security.

Although I didn’t really plan to circulate them, I did take pictures each of the five nights I visited Dad before he passed away, mainly in case family members wanted to see them, as difficult as they were to view.

The Fordham blanket was always front and center, providing comfort. This is an edited picture of my last visit, hours before he passed away.

Life Reflections

I *may* have asked Wayne (husband) more than once to double check that the Fordham blanket made it back to us from Hospice House after Dad died. (We still have a pair of “inherited” sweatpants that came home with Dad after his respite stay there in April — dear family out there looking for the tan sweatpants — we’ll hang onto them for you!)

Earlier in Kiger Family History

As I have been going through old pictures looking for photos of Dad, I ran across a picture from twenty years ago, a different time in the Fordham blanket’s lifecycle with us. It was a time of new beginnings, before Tenley (now 21) was six months old.

Life Reflections

(Oh, the cuteness!)

At six months, Tenley was already going to my in-laws every day. They took care of her until she was two years old. She was thriving. She was loved. My father-in-law and I had relatively diametrically opposed ideas about child care, but at no point was she not cared for with love by two people who were also helping us avoid the financial drain of child care.

Thanks, Jesuits (and Ignatians) for Cura Personalis

As I was looking up a few details about Fordham and the Sesquicentennial Celebration for this post, I ran across the concept of “cura personalis” on the university website.

This is an excerpt of what has to say (but I encourage you to read the entire post):

Little is written about the Ignatian-Jesuit characteristic of cura personalis, which is Latin for “care for the whole person.” Cura personalis comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. As St. Paul reminds us, “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

I can’t say I ever heard the term “cura personalis” during my time at Fordham. (I also must admit I was quite focused on the thrills of Manhattan and the Bronx — I did do my job as Internship Coordinator to the best of my ability and fell in love with Fordham while developing a deeper respect for the Jesuit approach …. but NYC held much of my focus!).

Somehow, though, the idea of cura personalis is a fit for the journey the Fordham blanket has taken, from the time I acquired it in 1991, through my marriage, to the time it lay under my infant, to the time it comforted my father-in-law as he passed from his earthly life.

Where will the blanket end up?

I don’t know where the blanket itself will be 150 years from now. Maybe my great grandchildren will transfer it from home to home, use it for various purposes, reflect back on how “this once belonged to great-grandma Paula.”

My hopes are that, if it survives, it will never be a “hands-off” showpiece, something people don’t touch, but rather something that brings comfort, security, and joy.

Something that does what cura personalis envisions: serving not just the intellect, but the heart, body, and whole person.

Life Reflections

Editor’s note: Yes, I titled this “afghan” and then referred to the item as a blanket throughout. Choose a preference; hopefully the sentiment makes sense either way!

24 thoughts on “One Afghan, Many Roles

  1. Paula, Please try to find a way to “attach” this wonderful post to the blanket/afghan when it moves to another household. As a family historian I can attest that any stories associated with such items are truly priceless! Hugs to you, my friend.

  2. I know you really devoted a lot of time with your Father in law and perhaps his affection for your blanket was a way to have you close helping him still! This is a lovely post and I am sorry for your loss.

  3. It’s funny the things that our seniors take comfort in. I have a old spread upstairs that belonged to my grandma’s bed. I can remember sleeping with her as a child. It means the world to me and I hope to pass it on to my granddaughter.

    • Sounds very cool (and probably a good idea to heed Robin’s advice (above) and write about why it has so much meaning ….. so future generations can know!

  4. Isn’t it amazing the stories (and affection) that cling to some of our (mostly) inanimate objects. Treasured. Loved. I have one blanket made by my mother. My daughter burned a hole in it when she was trying to read at night with a lamp nearby. That is a story in itself. It is our go-to blanket for security. Love this story. Love that your blanket gave you FIL such comfort. And that it survives to continue the legacy.

    • HA! I have a friend with a “almost burned the house down by reading under the covers” story. Imagine many of us who love reading do! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. What a beautiful story (and, to add to my enjoyment, I grew up in the Bronx and did a lot of shopping on Fordham Road.) What a life that blanket has had, and I agree you should keep its history with it! To add to the “under the covers” comment thread here, my husband’s cousin crocheted a blanket for my then young son and he burned it the same way. And, I still have the blanket.

    • AH. I am not sure if we have ever talked about the Bronx connection! Oh, Fordham Road! I would love to hear some of your stories!!! And that’s funny about the “under the covers” thread.

  6. Great story, it reminds me of my son taking a hand embroderied crazy quilt to camp the first summer he worked as a counselor, because for some reason his sleeping bag had been left in his brother’s car and brother would not be at camp during his first week of training.
    I was not as gracious and insisted that the quilt be put in brother’s car as soon as he arrived and not a moment later. It did survive and I have it back. It still has a chocolate ice cream stain on it from when I was a little girl.

  7. I’m sorry for your loss, Paula. But what a sweet story of letting go of a possession and letting it become a comfort. The older I get the more I realize that stuff is just stuff. People are what counts.

    • So true about the people being what really matters! I have so many stories from the three years he was with us of people who made a difference that might not earn them acclaim or even a certificate but made a difference for him as a patient and me as a caregiver (by that I mean “naps”)!

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  9. I enjoyed this, thank you. Family medicine is a medical specialty that emphasizes “care for the whole person”, that is why I chose it. I like the Latin translation; I wasn’t aware that the term is used in other contexts, but I’m glad it is honored in other disciplines. My family also has cherished “afghans”, and we continue to acquire them. There’s nothing like cuddling up to a warm blanket when one is tired, sick, or lonely.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment. I think one of the biggest challenges of the caregiving journey WAS the fact that so often “the whole person” was hardly something in the approach of so many specialists (and generalists). Extending the idea out a bit to the family system, I can honestly say there was ONE practitioner (a dentist) in three years of many medical (and dental) visits who looked at my husband and me and said “how are you guys doing with all this?” We would never have given him the LONG version but the amazing feeling of knowing OUR stress was recognized is something I won’t ever forget.

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