When Joey was sick, many people gave us toys, activity books, puzzles, and games. Healthy Joey would have loved them all, but sick Joey barely had interest in any of it.
Except for one little puzzle. It was actually a set of four small puzzles in a wooden box. Each puzzle had a different shape on the back so they could be sorted easily. The lid on the box slid back on the top so that you could put the puzzle together and "display" it once it was done.
He put those puzzles together a lot. It made me happy to see glimpses of the healthy boy who loved puzzles and crafts and coloring books.
I've discarded a lot of the items we received during all of Joey's hospital stays. There was so much, and none of the other boys seem to be into crafts and puzzles like Joey was.
But of all the items, the small box of four puzzles gets used the most. Every time someone gets them out, I find myself smiling a sad little smile.
Recently Edgie, our two-year-old, found the small box and brought it to Hubby. He crawled up on Daddy's lap, and the two of them put all four puzzles together.
He brought the puzzles to Daddy the next night. And the night after that. They put the puzzles together several times, until finally Edgie could assemble the puzzles all by himself.
One day as I was cleaning up the kitchen after the breakfast and off-to-school rush, Edgie climbed up on one of the bar stools and placed the box of puzzles on the counter.
"Mommy, you help me do puzzles?" He asked hopefully.
"Sure," I said, a bit distracted as I wiped the counter and plopped dishes in the sink.
I turned back to the counter to see a little head of wavy blond hair bent over a puzzle, little hands working carefully to fit pieces together. And I caught my breath.
I saw Joey sitting there. I saw a glimpse of healthy, curious, smart Joey in his little brother. A glint of a tear formed in my eye as Edgie placed a piece of the last puzzle in its place.
"Where this piece, Mommy?" He pointed to a corner of the puzzle without a piece.
"I don't know, Sweetie, but let's look together and find it." We scoured the kitchen floor and looked under every couch in the living room, but we couldn't find the piece.
The four puzzles were still set up on the counter when my dad came over later to watch Edgie for me for a little bit.
"Papa, I put puzzles together," Edgie said proudly.
"Wow," Papa remarked, "only this one has a missing piece."
"Oh, it's here somewhere," I said firmly. "We'll find it."
I smiled at Edgie, who smiled back. No, that piece won't stay missing for long. We know it's still here.