Fear and Longing

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My granddaughters live three states away. I haven’t seen them since January. The enforced separation is causing tears and heartache—on both sides. For me, though, as the aging adult, the longing is confused and aggravated by fear.

I’m close to seventy years old. What if I die before we can be together again? This strange and virulent disease could be the end of me. Other younger folk are often less anxious. Today we ventured out to a D.IY. store to get some needed house supplies. Although most of the customers had on masks, there was an atmosphere of laxity that I found alarming.

I hurried through the store, flinging air filters and bug spray into our cart. On the checkout line, the man in front of us had no mask. I commented on this and pulled back further. My husband, whose dementia blanks out the crisis daily, made a joke about the fellow being a tough guy.

“It’s not funny!” I shouted. I moved our cart to the self-checkout lane and rushed out of the store.

I don’t know if we’ll attempt another shopping trip. I truly felt unsafe, and also angry that others’ cavalier attitudes force me to take risks.

When I asked my doctor about the advisability of visiting the family, he said, “Sure, you can walk with them outdoors.”

“Oh, no, but they live five hours away,” I said.

“Nope.”

If this social isolation lasts months longer, I may reassess the risks versus the emptiness. For now, though, we’re back in the apartment, too far away.

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Jigsaw Puzzles in the Time of COVID

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Next to our kitchen we have a folding table devoted to a jigsaw puzzle. How many have we completed since March? Maybe five or six. Most have 1000 pieces. Some, like the one below, were difficult and frustrating. Usually the hardest bits are large areas of one color or a gradation of similar colors, like an expanse of ocean or sky.

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My husband likes to join me when I work on a puzzle. His struggles are doubled because of his dementia and his red-green color weakness. Still, he likes the companionship of doing this together.

The most difficult puzzle came as a holiday gift. It involved puzzles within a puzzle. First challenge: there were only two shapes in the edges. Usually we start by searching out all the flat edge pieces that make the frame. To assemble the frame of this “Escape” puzzle, we had to match the colors and design. But—second challenge–the picture of the puzzle IS NOT the picture on the cover! So we were left without a reliable reference.

It took me a while to figure that out. For example, on the cover there is a black and white cat sitting on a pink stool. In the puzzle–no cat.

Once we had all the pieces in place—not necessarily the right place—we realized that there were codes and math problems to solve in order to find the antidote to the poison taken by the chef in the story that accompanies the puzzle. Along with the story came a sealed envelope with the solution. We were able to decipher some of the codes and runes, but (I sadly confess) we gave up and peeked at the answer.

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Some of our friends say vehemently, “I hate jigsaw puzzles.” I, for one, enjoy the challenge, and the satisfaction of tapping a piece into place. A while ago, a puzzle aficionado and friend purchased several boxes of jigsaw puzzles. We’ve been passing them around among our socially distanced group. Each time someone finishes a puzzle, she signs the inside of the box top.

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Sometimes a critical voice in my head asks me why I’m wasting my time on this activity. “It’s relaxing and it’s fun,” I say, so I tell the voice to shut up, and go back to peacefully doing the puzzle.

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