The Jigsaw Man Ran Out Of Puzzle Pieces

Some of you may or may not remember a post I wrote about 13 months ago titled The Jigsaw Man. If you missed it, it was about my 83 year old father who had Alzheimer’s and dementia. I thought of him as The Jigsaw Man because that’s what his brain, his memories seemed like to me, a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces didn’t fit or match up with each other anymore. He had bits and pieces of information in his head and it seemed as if he were constantly trying to grasp them but they would slip through his mental fingers. Even his memories of who I was seemed out of his reach over the past couple years.

Yes, he passed away about ten day’s before Father’s Day. What was interesting to me was that my memories of him changed with his passing. During his last several years he wasn’t the man I grew up with. Initially I thought that to be very sad, and it is, but the process of laying someone to rest requires sorting and sifting through their whole lives. Ironically, and maybe intentionally, my dad saved pictures going back through his entire life, possibly knowing when his memory was fading that he would need these to remember who he was. He missed the internet revolution, so all of his pictures are of the printed out, Kodak film type, that never got a single like on Facebook.  Something about that makes them seem a little more special.

It was good fortune that he did, because it was a wonderful reminder to me of who he was over the course of his life, and it softened the painful memories of the last 5-10 years.

One thing that my father’s disease and passing has given me is an appreciation of the here and now. We always think we have more time. My dad, who was 84 when he passed, lived a pretty long life, but from day to day, he didn’t remember most of it for the last several years. He lived in the moment because it was all he had. On my last visit with him at the memory care facility he’s lived in over the past year, in the moment all he wanted was to sit in the courtyard and feel the sun on his face. So that’s what we did, and he smiled.

Here’s to hoping that in the afterlife he’s finally getting the internet and can read this. Thanks for everything dad. ~Phil

18 responses to “The Jigsaw Man Ran Out Of Puzzle Pieces

  1. Sincere condolences, Phil. My father-in-law is going through the same. He can’t speak or walk anymore but his face lights up when we show him photographs that my husband converted from slides to print of his early days on the farm. He still loves tractors:-)

  2. Phil, I’m so sorry. The photos help, don’t they? I hope the memories they recall hold your heart safe through this awful time.

    In my beliefs, your dad is again aware and can now read everything you’ve written. I would imagine he’s busy chuckling (occasionally snorting) as he catches up on all those posts of yours he’s missed.

  3. I’m very sorry for your loss. I too lost a parent to dementia and I work for the Alzheimer’s Association and counsel and help those dealing with this terrible disease . I can greatly empathize with your pain and heartache. My prayers for you and your family.

  4. What a lovely tribute to your dad.

  5. A beautiful tribute to your dad, Phil. I’m sorry for the initial loss of your dad and his subsequent passing to a new life. I hope he enjoys your writing at last. Thanks for sharing his memory.

  6. Phil, this was so beautifully written. I could relate to all of it, having also lived through the process with my mom … that process of “laying someone to rest requiring sorting and sifting through their whole lives”. This tribute to your dad captures it very well.

    I know this is a raw time with a lot of complicated feelings. My deepest condolences.

  7. Rebecca G Bivone

    I’m sorry about your Dad Phil. My Mom had Alzheimer’s the last 10 years of her life. It was so awful to watch someone who had always prided herself on having a photographic memory lose her mind. Your description of the “jigsaw” man is perfect and I also wonder if any of my pieces were also my Moms. She died in 2012 and by the end it was almost a blessing since she no longer was enjoying her life. I often picture her together with my Dad again and she has her mind back and he has his health back and they are just happy to be together.

  8. JEANETTE M Childs

    Your thoughts about your Dad, are wonderful. They will evolve as time goes on. I appreciate your loving way you chose to remember my brother.

  9. Such a lovely tribute. It inspires me to write one for my deceased dad. But for this evening, I’ll ponder yours a bit. Hope he’s got good WiFi.

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