Puzzlement

Early on, my son was a master at solving puzzles. He began this occupation, this obsession, with a common board puzzle, usually made of wood or another sturdy type of material. These simple puzzles are known to be a staple of most preschool playrooms because they are a foundation for identifying patterns, an essential foundational skill for a developing reader. Each piece of this type of puzzle had an obvious destination, a recessed lair, shaped in the exact formation of what was removed from it. All a puzzler had to do was to align a shape to its appropriated outline. There were no complex connections to be found, no obtuse angles or slanted alignments to be made, the connection was simple and easily afforded, and when all pieces were placed on the board, the scene was completed. For example, in his favorite farmland puzzle, the barn shape did not need to fit directly into, or be in agreement, to the holstein cow piece, nor did the sun have to be reconnected into the many pieces of its yellowed self. Each piece was succinct in its role and had a place to fit into.

Each piece had a place to fit into…

That sentence took me aback. Made me pause and reconsider my pieces and how they fit together. Perhaps this is all because I am turning fifty-one years today, but I know this is more than feeling limited by any stereotyped mid-life-crisis. I actually feel expanded because I am watching, much more intently, the evolution of the days before me. I am now fully embedded, committed to this jigsaw, and, like any great puzzler, I realize you do not quit just because you cannot see how it will all come together in the end. It has made me reconsider and re-examine this life, each piece of it, for either its trickery or its salvation. The acquired shapes can appear so very different to one another, but as with any pieced formation, once assembled, the cut lines are irrelevant. All of the solo shapes come together to create the One of it. It has a harmony of its own self.

But, getting back to my son, as he grew, he wanted new challenges, new puzzles, and his father and I willingly obliged. His baby brother grew much the same way. They were, and still are of course, huge pieces of my life-puzzle, but it has become clear that I have completed their primary phase of nurture. They do not look to me, nor their father, for every piece of their puzzle any longer. They are out there making and finding new shapes of living. It is good to see.

Now, as I reflect more on this, I suppose their father and I have been the known accomplices in the creation of the greatest strategy known to any serious puzzler: do the frame first. After this is established, the rest of the pieces will align together a bit more easily. I know this because I made a promise to my children years before they were born, in the teddy-bear tears of watching my own parent’s divorce, before I knew their father, before I knew myself. I asked the Universe, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or any being who might be listening, to help me do all that I could, to give my children one father, one house, one family, to collect their pieces.

I know this to be true, because, last year, after we sent our last son off to college and as I was talking to a young friend about the strength of my marriage, the successful launch of our two sons into collegiate life, how we are coping in the empty nest, I realized I was hearing my words differently. It was like something, or someone, escorted me to the audience, front row center, and was telling me to listen to myself, to hear the truth of what I was admitting. The wave of it slammed into my consciousness. Damn. How did I not feel or see this essential piece click into place? It had slipped itself in without me cognizant of its arrival. I must have been looking too long at other misfit pieces to see this all happening. This act of supplication, sent years ago by my younger self, was echoing out all these years, and now, has been delivered, right under my heart. It became apparent to me how all of this suffering, joy, sense of sustenance we expereince is happening all at once. There is no realigning the pieces in the puzzle of our time line, just the ultimate presence of who we are Now.

When and if my sons ever ask me about this life-puzzle we play with, these pieces we twist and turn, manipulate and sometimes lose in the crevices of our continuum? If they ask me if it is really worth trying to complete?  What I will try to say to them, by evidence of of my experience, is that what we search for, in the depths of our pain, will be delivered in love. The questions we ask in life, become our life. The jigsaw knows of its truth. It just waits for us to play with it.