Elizabeth was 92 and had been sick. When you are in the hospital a long time you lose track of things. You wake up and don’t know where you are. You don’t wear your clothes and can’t find your glasses. You eat what is sent up under beige plastic lids. Elizabeth was in danger of losing track of herself.
A rehab center speech therapist helped her. Elizabeth herself had been a speech therapist, before women commonly had that level of education or such a profession. She was immediately captivated by the chance to interact and to work her mouth and mind.
One thing the therapist did was to give Elizabeth xeroxes of word search puzzles. Elizabeth’s daughter was a bit shocked. Big type, such a simplistic task. She looked for reaction from her intelligent mother; embarrassment, perhaps? But Elizabeth loved them.
The word searches were themed. One was flowers. Gladiolous, delphinium, peony, Elizabeth found and shakily ringed with her ball point pen. On another: catamaran, canoe, tugboat, steamship. Emerald, ruby, opal, celadon. Collie, mastiff, terrier, retriever.
The pleasure of vocabulary, the satisfaction of sorting language.
Letting go her criticism, Elizabeth’s daughter started to buy her mother word search puzzle books. She pondered this shift in her attitude as she emptied her dishwasher one morning, a task she did early each day while her tea water heated up. Small plates, large plates, small bowls, large bowls. Dinner forks, salad forks, teaspoons, soup spoons, knives. Plastic boxes, matching lids.
Beginning the day by sorting herself out.