I was getting ready to go out and run some errands Wednesday afternoon when my phone rang. I saw it was a dear friend calling, and it put an immediate smile on my face. I hadn’t heard from him in a while. I answered the phone with the typical silly greeting we usually use with one another. “Suuuuuuuup,” I drawled.

I was met with silence. “Suuuuuup,” I repeated, thinking that maybe our connection was bad and he hadn’t heard me.

“My dad died.”

It was such a sudden and unexpected thing to hear. His father had been a good man. My heart hurt for my friend and his family. We talked and cried together. I tried to make him laugh a little. As I hung up the phone, I was sad and frustrated. He lives three thousand miles away from me now, which meant that what I could do for him was limited. If I lived closer, I would have been over at his apartment with dinner and cleaning supplies, ready to talk or not talk as he chose.

He has taken care of me through some pretty tough times, but I am helpless to do much of anything for him right now. I can offer sympathy but I can’t do much of anything real.

I am finding myself seized with the urge to knit for him. He doesn’t own much that I have knitted. He does, however, hold the dubious honor of owning the first scarf I ever made–a green seed stitch thing made with worsted weight acrylic on size 8 needles. It took forever and it is probably one of the most structured scarves ever–there is no drape to that thing. The needles were way to small and I was pulled the stitches way too tight. It has a glaring mistake in the stitch work. It’s not long enough. He insists he loves it anyway.

Maybe he deserves better. It’s August now, and it’s hot and humid and gross where he lives. But in a few months, it will be very cold and it will snow and he deserves something better than a nearly nine year old acrylic scarf for this winter.

I know that knitting won’t fix anything. I won’t bring his father back. It won’t help fix any of the logistical problems that a death always creates. But sending him some nice socks or mittens is something tangible that I can do. I can’t hug him or clean for him or feed him, but at least I can help keep him warm. It’s like what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says–we knit, in part, because we want to wrap the people we care about in love. And let’s face it, it takes love to make thousands upon thousands of tiny stitches with sticks and string into a garment.

I sometimes think of knitting as a hug you can send long distance. “I may not be there to wrap my arms around you, but here is something that you can wrap yourself up in instead. I hope it keeps you warm and safe and that you feel how much I love you.”

My friend is stoic. He has not asked me for a thing. And maybe he doesn’t want or need mittens or socks or a hat. But I need to give him something. He’s far away from his friends and family, and I worry about him. Grieving takes time, and even after the memorial is done and the affairs are settled and he’s back living his normal life, he will still miss his father. So I will cast on, and hope that when his fingers or toes are warmer this winter, he will feel loved and a little less alone and it will make him smile.