The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches

BOOK: The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches
12.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

It's not easy to get your life back after surviving The Big C. Sometimes you even have to:

  • 1) Actually accept a date from the good-looking guy your friends maneuver back into your life. You know, the one you've been dreaming about since before your diagnosis.
  • 2) Start a journal to prove to the world that you're getting your life back. (And maybe to prove it to yourself, too.)
  • 3) Listen to your friends when they say it's time to lose the baseball caps you've been hiding under, even though your dad gave you those caps and not much else.
  • 4) Stop trying to run your uncle's diner from the back room. Get out there and mingle with the customers—especially the cute ones.
  • 5) Remember to push your knitting buddies to take their own lives back—even though you're already missing your caps and wondering if your dream guy is really your particular dream after all.
Books by Janet Tronstad

Love Inspired

An Angel for Dry Creek

A Gentleman for Dry Creek

A Bride for Dry Creek

A Rich Man for Dry Creek

A Hero for Dry Creek

A Baby for Dry Creek

A Dry Creek Christmas

Sugar Plums for Dry Creek

At Home in Dry Creek

The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches


grew up on a small farm in central Montana. One of her favorite things to do was to visit her grandfather's bookshelves, where he had a large collection of Zane Grey novels. She's always loved a good story. Today Janet lives in Pasadena, California, where she is a full-time writer. In addition to writing novels, she researches and writes nonfiction magazine articles.

Janet Tronstad
The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches

For where two or three are gathered together
in My name, there am I in the midst of them.


Dedicated to my friend Katherine Snyder.
Thanks for all of the encouragement.

Chapter One

A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies.

—Charlotte's Web,
E. B. White

ebecca Snyder read this quote to us six years ago at our first Sisterhood meeting. I've had it in my journal since then, scratched in pencil on the back of a Juicy Fruit gum wrapper.

“I never thought I'd live like an insect,” Rebecca said after that with a discouragement I sensed was rare for her even though I didn't know her well that first night. “But, look at me—I have way too much in common with the spider, especially all that messy part.”

We were all quiet for a minute.

“At least we don't need to eat any flies,” Carly Winston finally added softly. She wasn't being funny.
We'd all had our share of eating strange things lately. “Chemo is bad enough.”

The silence stretched even longer after that. Each one of us was thinking of the flies or the chemo or both.

Rose could barely keep us focused on knitting that night. She showed us how to hold our new # 19 needles, which are the big needles that beginners use when they learn to knit.


I wish I could say we all agreed to call ourselves the Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches that first night, but it wouldn't be true. My name's Marilee Davidson and I have been voted to be the one to tell you how we started six years ago. I have everyone's permission to tell you how it was with us back then, and I'm writing it all down in this journal. We are seventy-five percent sure—the vote is three to one—that we will try to place this journal where others can read it so, if you're reading it now, I guess we finally all decided to let our story go forth and speak to who it will.

Anyway, the first thing you need to know is that on our first night together we couldn't agree on anything, not even a name. Rebecca—Becca for short—wanted to call us The Bald Ones although most of us hadn't become bald yet and weren't looking forward to it. I'll admit I argued with Becca over this. Only she would even
a name like The Bald Ones.

I thought Becca was strange at first because of the quote and the name suggestion, but I gradually came to realize that it was just the way she met life—jumping ahead to the problems. When we started, Becca was sixteen, dark-haired and vigorous. She had an opinion about everything and pounded into life even though she was sick.

Picture that bunny on television who advertises the batteries. That was Becca, only she was skinnier than the bunny—she made me promise to add that—and was smooth-skinned instead of fuzzy white. I'm adding that on my own out of simple jealousy—Becca's skin is a light olive shade and it doesn't freckle or blemish or burn like my pale, partially English skin does.

Anyway, I wish you could have seen Becca in those days. Every move she made had energy in it. Maybe that was why she believed in telling it like it is, no matter how unpleasant the “it” might be. Looking back, I think she was hoping that if she was only gut-wrenchingly honest enough about her cancer diagnosis, the sting of it would go away. As if maybe the whole thing was a pill she needed to swallow and so she was better off just gulping it down quick before the bad taste spread to the rest of her mouth.

Becca was Jewish and lived with her family down by the Fairfax district in Los Angeles. She used to say her “people” knew how to fight back, but some
times I thought she looked scared when she said it. That didn't stop her from pounding ahead, though. That was our Becca.

Eighteen-year-old, Carly, on the other hand, was tall, blonde and serene. She didn't pound anywhere; she glided. She lived in San Marino which had to mean her family was rich even though she never said anything about money or what her parents did for work. In fact, she didn't say much about her parents at all, not even to complain about them, so I guessed they were pretty impressive.

You'd have to be around Carly to understand why she didn't go on about her parents. If her father were the president of the United States, she wouldn't mention it because she wouldn't want to make the rest of us feel bad that our dads were only ordinary men. Everyone knows it takes lots of money to live in San Marino, though, so I figured her father was president of something. I never knew how much distance there was between her bank account and the accounts of the rest of us, although I speculated about it at first.

After a while, it didn't matter. Carly was just Carly. Nothing unnerved Carly, and she never seemed to break a sweat. Out of all of us, she was the one who always wore makeup to her doctor's appointments.

Carly usually tried to make our treatment sound like a day at the spa. You might think she was in
major denial, but that wasn't it. She knew what she faced right down to the numbers on her last blood test. She just always thought everything would be okay. If there was a rosy glass anywhere around, you could count on Carly to polish it up and look right through it. Carly was the one who suggested we become the Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches.

Lizabett MacDonald, at fifteen, was the youngest member of our group. She'd lost all her hair by the time we started to meet, so I didn't know back then that her hair was light brown. All I knew was that she wore a black scarf wrapped around her head like a turban. She was so thin and her face was so white, the scarf made her look like a skeleton in mourning. When her hair grew back in, it had a tinge of red to it.

Lizabett was the only girl in a big Irish family and, by her own admission, had been born shy. She also said she was content to stay that way—shy, that is.

I don't think Lizabett was overly thrilled with her family. She said it always sounded like a freight train was going through when they sat down to have a meal together. She liked a little more quiet. She even jokingly offered to give Carly a couple of her brothers when she found out Carly had no siblings. Lizabett had three siblings, all older brothers who, according to her, stomped when a step would do.

All of Lizabett's brothers were local firefighters.
Maybe because Lizabett's father had died when she was very young, she talked about her brothers a lot even though they annoyed her. She especially talked about the oldest one, whom she called “The Old Mother Hen” because he worried over her. He was always encouraging Lizabett to talk more, and it made her mad.

“I can say what I have to say when I have to say it,” Lizabett told us. “The Old Mother Hen doesn't need to keep at me about it.”

Of course, it wasn't true—Lizabett was too shy sometimes to even find out what she needed to know from the nurses or the lab techs—but one of the rules we'd come to abide by in the Sisterhood was that we wouldn't burst anyone's bubble if there was any way to avoid it. We all lived with enough pain; we didn't want to inflict any more on each other. If Lizabett needed to believe she was as outgoing as Queen Latifah, we would let her. So we only nodded and said The Old Mother Hen was just trying to help her.

We never pressured Lizabett to say anything. We assured her she didn't need to have an opinion about everything if she didn't want to have one.

Fortunately, Lizabett did have an opinion about our name. She voted for the Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches because she thought we were serious about knitting and should have a name with “Stitches” in it. She liked things to be clear and iden
tifiable, which sort of went along with her Old Mother Hen label.

As for me, I was so distraught by then that I didn't care what we called ourselves, although I do remember thinking there was some kind of cosmic justice in calling ourselves the Dropped Stitches. I mean, if you looked at our lives, you could see we were all like dropped stitches.

I used to wonder if God had been watching some all-engrossing football game on television when He made us, and that was why He missed the stitches that ended up letting cancer into our bodies. Becca had a bone tumor. Carly had Hodgkin's disease. Lizabett had a tumor in the muscle of her leg. I had breast cancer. None of our bodies had been made right. I didn't mind telling Him it was a pretty big miss when He dropped the stitches in us. The stitch He missed in me changed my life.

There is nothing like a diagnosis of breast cancer at nineteen to scare away a girl's future. I dropped out of my UCLA classes to cope with the chemo and decided to say no to dates even though I'd been fantasizing for months that the college guy who had been working the grill in my uncle's diner would ask me out—which he, Randy Parker, aka the grill guy, did the week after I got my diagnosis.

Some days it's all about the timing of things, isn't it?

The grill guy had the best eyes, sort of a blue-gray
stormy night look to them, but I knew saying no was the only thing to do. I mean, this guy was a big player on the UCLA football team. When he started working at the diner that summer before his senior year, you wouldn't believe how many UCLA students came in. The students weren't all girls, but enough were that I was amazed when he asked me to see a movie with him after work one night.

I just stood and looked at him with a plate of garlic fries in my hands and a net over my hair. For a split second, I forgot about my cancer. I think I might have even had a ringing in my ears. It was one of those “light in the tunnel” kind of things. I was blinded by the fact that he'd finally really noticed me.

When I got my breath back, I remembered the cancer. Of course, he didn't know about my diagnosis—my mother was the only one who knew—but I figured he'd find out soon enough, and I didn't want him to feel awkward about the whole thing. Most guys aren't interested in a date who has to worry about a partial mastectomy and chemo-induced nausea.

Besides, what if, after he found out about the cancer, he thought he had to keep asking me out because I was sick. What kind of a guy would he be if he dumped me when I might be dying? See how complicated it could become? I didn't want to be a stone around some guy's neck. I didn't want to be anyone's charity date, either.

The light in that tunnel disappeared fast enough.

I told the grill guy I wasn't dating. Just like that I went from giving him my best come-hither smiles to cold silence. He probably thought I was weird, but at least he didn't think I was dying.

I was glad the grill guy went back to college before my diagnosis was common knowledge at my uncle's diner. At a certain point, cancer is a hard secret to keep, especially when your hair starts to fall out, but—as bad as it became—I was always grateful I didn't have to face the grill guy with the news.

Even though I was glad I didn't have to see the pity in his eyes, it still seemed unfair that I was cheated out of my chance at a date with him. He could have been my destiny, and I'd never know for sure. You know how sometimes, when you're so overwhelmed about all of the big worries, there's some small worry that you focus on and think if you could just change that one thing everything else would snap back into place? That was me and my missed date with the grill guy.

The resentment about how unfair my life had become festered in me, but it wasn't something I could talk to my doctors about, especially not when they were busy trying to save my life. It seemed I should at least be able to handle my feelings. I mean, they were only feelings—they weren't tumors. All I needed was someone to talk to about things, preferably someone who had some experience with things like this and would know what to say.

I was emphatically not talking to God on account of the dropped stitches thing, so there was no point in going to my mother's church and talking to one of the counselors there as she suggested.

I think if I hadn't already started to warm up to God, I would have taken His indifference better. Mom had become a Christian six months or so before my diagnosis and that's when the changes really started in our family. My parents had argued with each other for as long as I could remember, but mostly it was about small stuff. Granted, there was a lot of small stuff, but we all just sort of got used to the bickering.

Then Mom announced she was a Christian. Boom—just like that, she told me and Dad about it one night when we'd finished one her special roast chicken dinners. Usually, when we had roast chicken for dinner, my parents managed to get along a little better. Even Dad had to agree Mom made a great chicken dinner.

But that night, Dad wasn't thinking about dinner. He said he'd rather be married to a woman in a mental institution than a Christian, and he told Mom to stop talking nonsense. Mom said it wasn't nonsense and she wasn't going to stop. Dad didn't like that, so he said he'd rather be married to an ugly, mean-spirited woman in the largest mental institution in the world than some pigheaded, self-serving Christian who believed heaven was the answer to everything.

There was a moment of silence after he said all that. Even I was shocked at his bitterness. Then Mom said Dad would be sorry someday for saying things like that, and he should think about repenting before it was too late. Dad said he'd repent over his dead body. Mom said it was likely that was just what was going to happen.

Dad looked at us and then threw down his dinner napkin before stomping out of the room. After that, I could tell my parents weren't arguing from habit any longer.

They were arguing in earnest now, and it went on for months.

Finally, Dad moved out of the house. I never could decide if it was fortunate or unfortunate that he made his move the week after Mom and I learned about my diagnosis. Cancer was so far from my mind at that time that I couldn't figure out why the doctor had asked me to bring my mom with me for my final visit. I thought he was worried about my mom skipping a mammogram or something. I was shocked when he said I had a tumor. I was glad my mother was there even though I wasn't ready to tell anyone else about the diagnosis.

The good part of Dad's timing in moving out was that my news gave Mom something to worry about besides the state of Dad's soul, so she didn't fight with him when he said he was leaving.

BOOK: The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches
12.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Unlikely Allies by C. C. Koen
Walleye Junction by Karin Salvalaggio
Someday: 3 (Sunrise) by Kingsbury, Karen
At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole
The Woman He Married by Ford, Julie
Norman Rockwell by Laura Claridge
Deadly Dozen: 12 Mysteries/Thrillers by Diane Capri, J Carson Black, Carol Davis Luce, M A Comley, Cheryl Bradshaw, Aaron Patterson, Vincent Zandri, Joshua Graham, J F Penn, Michele Scott, Allan Leverone, Linda S Prather
Double Fault by Lionel Shriver
Wicked Days with a Lone Wolf by Elisabeth Staab