Life After Loss: A Puzzling Future

My dad’s side of the family enjoyed tavern puzzles.  They were the so-called “brain teasers” of jumbled wires, wood, and usually a marble, all hopelessly tangled…with no set of instructions.  The puzzles would stump the smartest among us. Every once in a while, though, you would hear an “AHA!” from another room.  Someone had figured it out.

Considering that my dad became a scientist, and his brother an engineer, I would imagine these puzzles helped develop their latent drive to solve problems in the real world.  The solution to any of these puzzles was pretty simple. So simple in fact, that once realized, you felt silly for not seeing it in the first place. While there are many strategies to solving a puzzle, trial-and-error holding the pace, there’s an unwritten rule…possibly even, THE rule.

You NEVER force a puzzle to a solution.  

The other day, I was asked to share an unanticipated aspect of losing a parent, “something they never tell you.” The subject hit me odd at first. There’s no doubt that endless volumes have been written on losing a loved one. Most of what has been covered for millennia, is about dealing with the emotions of hurt, anger, sadness, fear, depression, anxiety - along with hope, love, and letting go.

Those feelings were there, as expected, but there was something I didn’t anticipate. 

It’s been nearly 4 years since my dad’s passing, and I never anticipated the feeling of confoundment; not confoundment towards him personally, although that lasted for a while. After the emotions have settled, there’s an odd puzzle left before you...your own life. You also come to realize, that your parent was coping with the same dang thing.  He or she was another human being, just like you, working on their own confounding puzzle.

However, your puzzle can’t be forced to a quick solution. The world around you will continue indefinitely, not concerned with your subjective time restraints.

My dad loved to inner tube down a river, on a Saturday.  Over time, he amassed a decent collection of tractor tire inner-tubes, coolers, and ropes. He had enough, so that if he invited a group of people, all they had to do was bring a beverage, snacks, and themselves.  He knew the best spots to put in, and always had another vehicle downriver, so we could return after our inflated voyage ended.

To say the least, he was a man with a plan.

The section of the river we used, was shallow enough to stand in, but deep enough to float over some very mild rapids. Every once in a while, you would snag a rock, get out of your tube, reposition, and re-launch. You would rub your arms raw, paddling to avoid a rock or catch a current. If you caught a really fun rapid, you would get out, go back, and do it again. 

Everyone was floating down the same river, in the same direction, with the same destination-- conversing, laughing, talking loudly, being quiet. Some got scrapes, and some ate grapes. All that aside, at no point was anyone trying to “figure out” how the river flowed, or crack the code for a more perfect inner tubing experience.

Rivers do what rivers just enjoy the float.

One final thought: Let's say that right now, you discovered THE answer. THE secret to life. All your questions and concerns are laid to rest, and the puzzle is solved. You would STILL have to decide what’s for dinner. The laundry STILL needs to be done. You will, yet again, run out of toilet paper while in the bathroom.

It’s the ordinary, everyday stuff, that continues to move forward...with, or without your complete understanding, confounding any notion of something more fantastic, other than the simple and sublime rhythm of the day-to-day.

Its okay. You’re allowed to relax, and breathe. You’re allowed to enjoy the float, just like you’re allowed to let the pieces of your puzzle fall in place, over time.

And to that point, I’ll leave it here...cause my dog needs to go outside.

This story was written by Brian Ezzell, contributor to The Pāpur.