Tag Archives: Puzzles

Courage at Twilight: Moving Pieces

Mom and I started a puzzle. 500 pieces.  It came in the gift basket delivered by the caroling young women from church.  It is a pretty puzzle of a nature scene, in the mountains, tinged with the scarlets of early fall.  Warm and pleasant, a reassurance during our freezing dirty-snow urban winter.  Mom separated out the edge pieces and starting making matches.  I managed to frame the border during a Father Dowling mystery episode (which I handle so much better than NCIS for the 1990s absence of violence and gore).  During a dinner of creamy chicken vegetable soup, Dad obsessed about the bitter cold and how during their first winter here 24 years ago a pipe burst in the basement for lack of insulation (the contractor’s helper had run out of insulation and had left the pipe exposed and the contractor now had to come back and fix the pipe and fix the ceiling and fix the wall, plus add the insulation that would have prevented the whole disaster) and how this year he did not have the strength to wrap the house hose bibs like he has done every year before and how they were exposed and how he hoped they would not freeze and crack and he wondered how far into the house zero degrees could penetrate and could zero degrees reach the basement pipes and burst them again?  Seeing no point in discussing the matter, I dressed in a heavy coat, strapped on a headlamp, and left the house armed with a stack of thick rags, plastic shopping bags, and neon-green duct tape, trapsing through deep snow to wrap the faucets—we all hoped this precaution would be sufficient, noting that the faucets were already anti-freeze hose bibs.  “You have set my troubled mind at ease,” Dad smiled thankfully.  Needing to rise at six the next morning, I said good-night at ten and bent to bed.  But I often wake at 12:30 in the morning to the sounds of Dad’s effort to transfer from the stair lift to the wheelchair, and Mom’s efforts, in her long cotton nightgown, to push the chair to the bed, Dad helping what little he can, and their talking, and sometimes their bickering over him issuing instructions she was already following.  I can tell from the tone if my help is needed, when I throw on my bathrobe and respond.  So long as he maintains his night-owl lifestyle (granted, he no longer reads until three in the morning), I cannot be the one to help him get to bed.  A routine of caregiving until 1:00 a.m. then rising at 6:00 a.m. daily would destroy me, probably in only two days’ time.  Thankfully, the CNA assists Dad in the mornings after I have left for work.  She knows to use the wheelchair to get Dad from the bed to the shower, to use the heavy-duty seated-walker to get him dried off and to the couch for dressing and to the stair lift to descend for breakfast and a day’s reading.  That is what he can do: read and read and read.  And too quickly the time comes to prepare another dinner worthy of them and the legacy they leave, perhaps lemon chicken on a bed of pesto couscous, or Hawaiian chicken on a couch of coconut rice (my favorite), or stewed spicy chicken and dirty rice, or, on occasion, beef franks sliced into canned pork and beans.  The puzzle beckons after dinner is cleaned up.  I stare at 500 unconnected pieces, feeling totally intimidated, knowing I can never find two matching pieces in that chaotic morass of 500, then somehow forming the border and slowly fitting together the interior, until the puzzle is done, and I am astonished and wondering how it happened.  So many pieces.  So many moving pieces.