Category Archives: nostalgia

The Jigsaw Man

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon… ~Harry Chapin

The Jigsaw Man is my father. I call him that because he has Alzheimer’s and Dementia. I don’t actually call him that, but if I did he wouldn’t remember it five minutes later.

Why I think of him as The Jigsaw Man is because now his brain seems to be filled with puzzle pieces of his life, and none of them fit together any longer. It’s as if he has a hodge podge of pieces from different puzzles and he has no idea how to put them together again.

Every summer my family went camping with my dads parents and his brothers and sisters families. Every summer I watched my big brother and older cousins water-ski. I was dying to water-ski. I wanted to get out on the water and do all the cool tricks that the big kids were doing. 

When I was eight years old, my uncle took the boat out, letting out the tow line behind it. My dad sat back in the water holding the handle at the end of that rope with the tips of his skis poking out of the water. Then I climbed up on my dad’s shoulders and wrapped my arms around his neck. The motor roared to life and seconds later I was riding my dads shoulders at thirty miles an hour. That’s one of my puzzle pieces. I wonder if it’s one of his.

Oh, crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got ~
The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics

On Friday I had my dad placed in a memory care facility. He needs constant supervision, otherwise he might wander off. I know it’s hard to think of putting your parent in a locked facility, but it’s a very nice place and I’m comfortable with it. For years he had been cared for by his long time girlfriend who was at her wits end. Despite her emotional exhaustion, she had a harder time with the decision than my siblings and I. 

One thing that will forever make me think of my dad is the TV show Two and a Half Men. No, my dad didn’t love the show. In fact, I’d be surprised if he knew about it at all. In the picture above, see the higher one of the two framed posters on the wall? It’s a poster of Earl Hines, a legendary American jazz musician. I wish that I could have found a better picture of it. That poster was on the wall on that set every year that Charlie Sheen was on the show. When Ashton Kutcher showed up they redecorated. (How many of you even knew that in the last couple seasons they replaced Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher?)  You may not know of Earl Hines, but in jazz circles he’s still famous enough that when my son went to college a few years ago they were still teaching Earl Hines songs to the jazz ensemble. So, why does a famous jazz musician remind me of my dad?

On a snowy December night in Syracuse, N.Y. in the early to mid 1970’s my dad was on his way home from working late and he saw a car broken down by the side of the road. It was Earl Hines and his manager. My dad gave them a ride to their hotel. For a few years after that they remained in touch and whenever Earl Hines was playing in Syracuse, he’d meet my dad for dinner and my mom and dad might go to the show if they could get a babysitter. That is one of my puzzle pieces. I wonder if it’s one of his.

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no
And, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
You know, feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee ~
Janis Joplin

Me and Bobby McGee. He used to walk around the house playing his guitar and singing it. That is one of my puzzle pieces. I wonder if it’s one of his.

They say you grow up to be your parents. If someday I become a Jigsaw Man, I wonder what my puzzle pieces will be. 

Have a great Sunday! ~Phil

Cemetery of the Heart

picturesofengland.com

picturesofengland.com

We all have a Cemetery of the Heart that we visit from time to time. It is a place that is unique and belongs to each of us alone. Sometimes we visit when it’s sunny and the birds are singing and at these times we are unaffected by the memories each marker represents, thankful that we are in a better place.

Other times we visit our Cemetery of the Heart when the weather is cloudy, cold, and stormy, perhaps mourning the loss of those happy memories that warmed our hearts in days gone by.We may walk down an aisle, a small, grassy path flanked on either side by those tiny markers that barely acknowledge a person’s passing, viewing the tombstones with varying levels of interest and angst. Some of the smaller stones, barely a marker really, may represent missed opportunities, brief connections with people which never came to fruition or doors we did not open when opportunity knocked. Most are relationships that perished in their infancy. We recognize the names on some of these stones and others we do not. Some are lovers, some are friends and some are strangers we may have met in passing.

In the next row over are tombstones of those loves which may have been ill-fated, but which still resonate poignantly in our memories. The path through this row of grave markers is slightly uphill, but we can still easily make the trek. The stones are tall and strong with the names and dates etched in them as they are forever etched in our hearts. Each one a small nick, or scratch, or crack in the surface of our hearts, which may have changed it ever so slightly, but which also gives our heart some of the strength and character which has brought us this far.

As we turn the corner of the gravel path there are only a few graves left to view. Up the long, steep hill at the far back of our Cemetery of the Heart are the monuments and mausoleums. It is inevitable. Once we enter our Cemetery of the Heart we are compelled to walk the entire path, even when it becomes steep and difficult. There is no way to go back and erase what we’ve carved on each tombstone. The monuments and mausoleums may be far fewer in number, but their size and importance dominates our view of the cemetery.

In some places we have erected enormous monuments to lost loves. Some of them stand so tall and broad that they block the sun, dooming the small flowers we have tried to plant since the monument was built. Some of us are so tired from pushing the heavy stones into place that we haven’t even tried to plant new flowers yet. We hope that in time some hardy plants will grow here naturally in the shade of these memories and with enough time perhaps they will grow tall enough to reach the sunlight with branches where birds will nest and sing again.

Next to our monuments we notice a mausoleum. Some of the crypts are labeled and we fondly pay homage to those who still hold a special place in our hearts, those we still wish to check in on from time to time to see that they are well. Finally, if we choose to look closely enough, we can see that the daylight from outside our mausoleum has crept through the doorway to reveal a few empty drawers at the back. At this realization we smile and leave the cemetery in peace, knowing that the storm will eventually pass.

This is an idea for a future novel. Hoped you don’t mind the detour from my usual style of writing. I promise to return to my usual level of idiocy next week. As always, if you enjoy anything I write on #ThePhilFactor I’d love it if you shared by hitting the Facebook, Twitter, or re-blog button below. Have a great weekend! ~Phil