Last year, with a 7th grade reading class I teach we looked at an article about a 9-year old Hailey Richman who started a nonprofit group to give out puzzles designed to help people who have memory loss or other problems. The article talked about a program called Puzzles to Remember and her mission to give jigsaw puzzles to nursing homes and other places that care for people struggling with Alzheimer’s. Shortly after we also watched a powerful documentary titled Alive Inside, a Story of Music & Memory.
The lesson made me think about my mom who survived an emergency surgery over 25 years ago to remove a benign brain tumor when she was pregnant with my youngest brother. The ordeal going from an emergency surgery that left her with paralysis after she suffered a stroke, staying alive to give birth a few months later, and having surgery again after that to replace part of her skull, required time to adapt as a mother and wife to a new way of living. In that time, I grew into my early adulthood watching her stay mind strong with a love as a mother that never waivered from even before when I was a child. In recent years, we started coloring to give my mom a chance to work on her hand-eye coordination and to provide some contact with books that allow us to bring color to things we’re interested in. After learning about Richman’s work from the middle school reading class I teach, we also stepped into the world of puzzles. It’s a real cool way to pass the time together while listening to music, news and connecting pieces of a puzzle that you have to read over and over again. I grew up during a time when puzzles were far more popular, but even back then I never actually took the time to piece one together.
To date, we’ve completed two puzzles. Our first was a 500 piece puzzle of Succulent Spectrum flowers that we had matted for the wall, and a 300 piece puzzle that I call “Animal Planet”. We’re currently working on another puzzle of plants that my baby brother bought for my mother on Christmas, and I got a surprise 500 piece puzzle coming up for the off season, Fly Eagles Fly. During the summer, I’m planning to create one that I’d like to customize as I’ve learned there are ways to create your own puzzles too.
I’ve come to love this past time for the benefits that I’ve read it has for the mind, memory and overall brain health. I also love the time it allows for me to spend with my mother as it requires our full attention away from that distractions of technology, TV, and other things that don’t allow us to accomplish something cool together and talk. I share it also, to pass on ideas for how we can stay connected with siblings and introduce young people to games that allow them time off screens and around people they care about.
Til’ the next puzzle piece, here are a few cool shots of our puzzles, more of whic which you can also find clicking on the hashtag #e1puzzle.