Most people have daily routines, and Papa is no different. After waking up and getting dressed and ready for the day he typically eats breakfast and gets ready for his morning TV. Most mornings he eats at home but then takes a quick drive to a local restaurant for a cup of coffee. Papa is still looking for a group to socialize with in the mornings and this past week he expanded his search for a hangout to try Burger King, although he emphatically states their coffee is not nearly as good as McDonalds. We love how determined he is and next week he mentioned he feels comfortable enough to try a few new local places. Depending on his timing in the morning he makes his bed before or after the first Walker show. Papa is very predictable and sticks to his routines.
I surprised Papa Friday and came home from work before lunch to spend the afternoon with him and his first comment was I don’t know why my neck hurts but I couldn’t make my bed. I asked what happened and assured him that an occasionally unmade bed is no big deal then I suggested an anti-inflammatory and pulled out the heating pad. Doug gave him a quick massage to see if he could work out the kinks, and he spent the rest of the evening relaxing in his easy chair and pondering over what had caused it. I wonder why this happened, I had a still neck once before but that was when I was working on a car engine. I don’t do that type of mechanical work anymore. During the evenings many conversations my mind kept wandering to wonder if he really only had a stiff neck one other time or if he only remembers it happening one other time. I was envious I can’t count the number of times I have strained my neck.
This morning at breakfast I asked him how his neck was feeling and he said much better. The heating pad and medicine helped me but I think Doug cured it with a rubdown. Doug felt like Mickey, Rocky’s trainer, and was glad he could help. Then it occurred to us! Papa spent countless hours last week working jigsaw puzzles like he was training for an Olympic competition. Leaning over the table looking for specific pieces to put together probably caused his stiff neck. We all laughed and mentioned that he is going to have to slowly build up his puzzle workouts, and a walk around the block every so often might help to cross-train.
Jigsaw puzzles are great for a variety or reasons, but especially someone whose memory skills are declining. Not only are they a great social outlet for us to sit facing one another and talk without having a TV on, but also they are a mental workout. A puzzle builds concentration and uses your mind using spatial reasoning to find a piece that would fit due to color shape or size, dexterity putting the pieces together and logic knowing why a piece will or will not work in a specific place. Looking for the same pieces each time we are sitting at the table helps to build Papa’s short-term memory skills, and the feeling of accomplishment watching the picture come together is a great boost of self-esteem. I loved hearing Papa’s excitement as he said Got it! or I knew I could find that piece! or Almost there! I am so proud of Papa and look forward to building many more puzzles with him.
Papa’s first puzzle was a picture of different types of ice cream, and when it was completed on Wednesday, Doug picked up an ice cream treat for us to celebrate. Thursday while Papa and I were out on our weekly “dinner night” he asked to stop and get a frame for the completed puzzle and he also picked up a new puzzle to start working on. He really enjoyed watching the puzzle come together and the feeling of success once it was finished. While we pieced or puzzled or jig-sawed (or whatever true puzzlers call it) together Papa would tell me how he and Nana had worked puzzles while they were stationed in France over fifty years ago. He was very happy to be reintroduced to an old hobby, especially one that reminded him of Nana.
The new puzzle was out of the box minutes after arriving home and while we were beginning to put together the border, Papa started asking questions. I wonder how they make puzzles? I wonder what the biggest/hardest/______(fill in the blank) puzzle is? These pieces are all the same shape and are pretty tiny. Thankful for YouTube we looked up how puzzles are made for the next 45 minutes. We never realized the different cuts of puzzles, and we will spend a bit more time being selective before we pick out our next puzzle. We both decided random pieces are more interesting than a strip or grid pattern, and really worked his memory to find a specific shape. But until we go puzzle shopping again, we will be working on a panoramic view of Times Square and we will have to keep reminding Papa will have to remember that we are not in competition, he will have to complete his puzzles in moderation, just like we eat ice cream.
Tonight at dinner Papa glanced over to the other end of the table with our puzzle laid out and asked, I wonder how a puzzle is made? Maybe in the next few weeks we’ll work on teaching him how to use a computer so he can get to YouTube….
Reference: Cobble Hill makes a variety of puzzles with beautiful artwork, and we look at them again for our next purchase. The family puzzle is a random cut with three different sizes of pieces and was the perfect size for Papa at this time, but they have wide assortment of sizes ranging from 35 pieces to 2000.