She always had a puzzle on her table. Veiled in blankets and a fox pelt scarf her old bony hands worked tirelessly. Building first the edges, then, filling in the pieces. Her hawk eyes scanned the table for matching pieces. It seemed as if she saw nothing else.
In the beginning she called us by our names. We would run up to her rocking chair eager to see her. She would smile, our parents would smile. Her eyes gleamed at the sight of us. She would talk to us about our life in California and she would, in turn tell us the same story. Every year.
It was always there. ‘It's what happens when you get old’ we were told. And, too young and naive to know better we believed it. Our parents smiled as we hugged her, but the smile was as hollow and dry as sawdust. Their eyes seeing but not experiencing the sight before them, they knew. They knew behind the coffee stained cavity ridden teeth the ugly truth that was unfolding.
We walked now to greet her, the our parents explaining she was too fragile to run to now. The puzzle still lay on her table, the same one that had been there for the past decade. She greeted us with a blank stare, the light the had danced in her eyes was held to a dim shimmer. A trace of a smile met her lips but we knew it was for naught.
She didn’t address us by our names now. She just looked for a moment longer, her eyes tracing the contours of each of our faces, but they saw nothing familiar. Her hands were the only part of her that moved deftly, she was filling in the face of a fox, the same fox had stared back at her not a month before when she had completed the puzzle once again.
She was equipped now with two large oxygen tanks now, plastic tubing ran up her nose. The pile of blankets had grown thicker, the fox pelt still rested on her frail shoulders. Her hands worked slower now. Her joints swollen and crooked from arthritis worked on the edge of the puzzle, her eyes, seemingly shut scanned for a corner piece.
She is resting now. Probably dreaming of her puzzles.