PORTLAND – Dit dit dit — dah dah dah — dit dit dit. Dit dit dit — dah dah dah — dit dit dit.

“What does ‘SOS’ stand for?” asks my daughter Maria. She is crewing on the SSV Tabor Boy, a 92-foot steel-hulled, two-masted schooner owned and sailed by her new school, a boarding academy three hours away.

“It doesn’t actually stand for anything,” I say, remembering my high school days when I was studying for my amateur radio operator’s license and learning Morse code.

“Before we could talk on the radio, we could only send signals. There were two — a short one, that sounded like ‘dit’ through the speaker, and a longer one, that sounded like ‘dah.’ The alphabet was translated into a series of dits and dahs.

“The letter ‘S’ was dit dit dit. The letter ‘O’ was dah dah dah. The letter ‘A’ was dit dah — and I don’t remember the rest now. But SOS became the universal emergency signal because the dit dit dit — dah dah dah — dit dit dit was easy to remember and easy to recognize when you heard it.

“Some say it means, ‘Save Our Ship’ or ‘Save Our Souls,’ but those acronyms came after the fact. Originally it didn’t stand for anything. It’s a code for ‘help.’“

My wife and I and Maria are riding quietly in the car on the way back to school after a break. Separation has been difficult for all of us.

“I miss you guys so much,” says Maria. “Do you miss me?”

“Yes,” I answer. “Why do you think I knit?”

I have not knit in the 15 years since Maria was born. It is a craft I learned in my college days. I recognized even then that I would not likely have a wife anytime soon, and not wanting to forgo having knitted things to wear, I asked my mom to show me how to knit.

I started with a green and white striped scarf. I progressed to mittens and socks and, many years later, a sweater for a girlfriend. When Maria went away to school, I started again.

I don’t speak my emotions well. I struggle to find the right words. But maybe words are not always best. As I knit Maria’s sweater, the sequence of knit purl, purl knit becomes a code.

The stitches transform a simple strand of yarn into the intricate pattern of the Irish knit sweater. The pattern says words I do not speak often enough: “I miss you. I love you.” The pattern says words I have never spoken: “I knit to turn my feelings into something tangible, something useful, something beautiful, something to hug you and keep you warm when I am not there and you miss me.” Knit purl, purl knit.

It’s a code that I only now have come to understand.

My mother knit sweaters for me when I went away to college. She was a fine knitter, and the sweaters were beautiful. But I hear now what she was saying; I feel now what she was meaning. She did not speak her feelings well either. She too spoke in code. Knit purl, purl knit.

Marcel Moreau tries to crack the code from his home in Portland.