In the waiting room there are some small tables and they leave puzzles out on one or two of them. I always sit at one of those tables and work on a puzzle while I’m waiting to be called in. Some people come in to one of the regular chairs and just sit there, some sit pointing towards the t.v. where a news program is always on. I always sit at a puzzle.
I wonder about why they leave them. To keep people busy, maybe keeping their mind off of the reason they are there? Why do some patients not take advantage of the distraction? When I sit there, do people wonder if I am looking to be distracted?
My Grandma Green used to bring puzzles to our house when I was a girl, and we would lay them out on our dining room table (which we only ever used when we had a holiday get together, or for puzzles). They were always these very small pieced, hard to do puzzles and we would spend weeks, a little bit at a time, working on it until it was completed. Then we would start another. There are two things I know for certain that I got from my Grandma – my love of puzzles and my love of books and reading.
I think there is more to the puzzles in the waiting room than keeping people busy. It’s the circle of life. At a puzzle table is where I met Mary (People of Chemo) and where we discussed life, choices, and death.
When I sit down to work on one of the puzzles, the first thing I do is see what has already been done. Are the edges all put together, nice and organized and ready to be filled in? Did someone undo the pile from where the box had been dumped and turn them all over yet? Has anyone separated the pieces out by color and by texture? Sky blues and tree branches at the top, grassy greens, flowers or ocean blue waves at the bottom?
While I sit there and start my contribution to the rebuilding of the scene that the puzzle depicts, I think about all the others who have worked on it before me. Are you an organizer? Did you sit here and enjoy putting all the similar colors in a group and not put any pieces together? You made it easier for others to start piecing things. Did you succumb to the draw of the easy to find edge pieces and get satisfaction of piecing the boundary that all others who come after you will have to fit their pieces into? Or like me, do you waver back and forth between finding a small pile of like pieces and then working your way through them to see if any of them fit together? Small contributions at a time that may not be as easily noticeable by the next person, but important progress nonetheless.
When you sat working on the puzzle before me, did you think about your cancer? Did you think about your kids? How are your treatments going? You’re gonna make it through, I want to tell them all. You can do this. We are sisters and brothers in this fight, even if the only thing we ever know of each other is what we contributed to this puzzle, and the reasons why we are each here.
Today while I sat there, I thought of Mary. Is she the one who separated out the green grass pile on this puzzle? What did she think about while she did it? Has she heard the words yet? You need to do chemo again to fight off your cancer again. Has she told the doctor ‘no’ yet? Has she told her family of her decision? Are they anxious, worried, sad – wishing selfishly that she would continue her fight? Do they understand why she said no?
See? It’s the circle of life.