Solvable and Unsolvable Puzzles

When I got home from Mom’s and pushed open the door to my condo, there was a knee-high stack of boxes waiting for me in the foyer. They had been brought up by the diligent concierge, who makes sure boxes don’t remain in the front lobby too long.

Ten of the boxes came all the way from China and held the reprints of Prince Tarkten. Two boxes were from Amazon. One box was from Made In, a gift to myself I’ve wanted since last summer but saved for my birthday.

There was one box I didn’t recognize.

The unexpected box was from Wentworth Puzzles. According to the packing list, I ordered it, but I hadn’t. There was no clue as to the sender.

Wentworth is the place I order puzzles for my mom, but it wasn’t from her. She’s never been able to order online (no computer and no smartphone) and she’s no longer able to order by phone. It’s too complicated.

I put the mystery puzzle on my big kitchen counter, so I could see it when I eat my meals. Because I like to savor things, my plan was to look at it for a few days, appreciate it, and then open it.

But the puzzle drew me in.

Because the speckled granite countertop would make the shapes and colors of puzzle pieces difficult to see, I spread a linen sheet over the counter. “I’ll just lay out the pieces.”

The Wentworth pieces are wooden and 4mm thick. They feel good in the hand. After being with mom in her fuzzy world, it was satisfying to look for, find, and put together pieces that fit.

The puzzle was of a writer’s desk with ten cats making a mess of things. The pieces for the typewriter keyboard begged to be put together. After all, QWERTY and ASDFG are easy to spot. I did those, but then kept going. Just one more piece. Just one more.

Each connecting piece sent a shot of dopamine through my head. There were right answers. There was no fuzziness.

Hours later, I was still at it. I can’t put my mom’s brain back together the way it was, but I can make a jigsaw puzzle come out right.

Now that it’s done, I realized my mom and I never worked on a puzzle while I was there. We used to go to the day room to work on the communal puzzle every afternoon after lunch, and sometimes in the morning after breakfast. If we were close to finishing, we’d even pop back after dinner.

Now, after-mealtimes are reserved for naps, as they are for many people in their 90s. Mom did work on a puzzle once while I was there, keeping me company while I used the dayroom wi-fi to set up her quarterly payments to the IRS.

I’m not sad about the changes, at least not right now. What’s happening with my mom feels like a river. The river is in charge. My job is to ride the river.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Mica tower at International Friendship Park in Cincinnati
Thankful for expertise, generously shared.

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