I just completed the sorting of a 550-piece jigsaw puzzle into 5-quart-size storage bags, each with hopefully related pieces.

This was my first step toward climbing the Mount Everest that is puzzle solving with my limited spatial abilities. It has been an engrossing activity. My last attempt at solving jigsaw puzzles was probably around age 10, when I just gave up after fitfully trying to fit pieces together.

But now I am using puzzles as my weapon of choice against dementia, hoping that even sorting and then attaching these pieces will generate new neural paths, even though my puzzle-solving abilities currently are paths to nowhere.

I did give thought to other ways of fostering neuroplasticity. There was, for me, the possibility of concentrating on puzzle solving’s evil twin: woodworking. I admire those retirees who become master birdfeeder craftsmen.

That’s not in my bailiwick, though. Industrial arts was the only class I got a “C” in during junior high. I did eventually bring home the requisite wooden salad bowl, but really this was an item that was pretty much ghost-crafted by the IA teacher.

I also thought about taking a language course. Studies show that bilingualism can lower chances of Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, I am not bilingual. I perhaps had an opportunity as a child to gain a little proficiency in Yiddish, as my parents and grandparents would slur others in that tongue, shielding me from unsavory English.

The closest I got to bilingualism was in sophomore honors French class, which was truly a nurturing bilingual space. I was clearly overmatched in this class; it was totally conducted in French. When I couldn’t muster the phrase for “I need to go to the boys’ room,” I asked out of honors.

My first attempt at developing new neural networks was to advance my nonexistent iPhone photography skills. Starting from scratch, I bought the iPhone for Dummies book.

I thought of photography as an extension of my creative inclinations, albeit with certain technical skills required. I thought I could achieve enough as a photographer to continually entertain my friends with 10 consecutive still lifes of my dog, Mabel.

But I stopped reading the Dummies book when I got to chapter three, entitled “Setting Up Your Camera for Photographic Greatness,” and I determined I was not bound for glory, camera-wise. I did learn how to hold the iPhone camera to center my favorite photo subject: invoices.

So, I am now challenging myself with the aforementioned 550-piece puzzle called Food Truck, centered on a very colorful portable Mexican cantina with too many pieces of similar color patterns. Fortunately, though, the puzzle features a food truck menu, and yes, I can solve interlocking pieces that, for instance, spell “tostadas.”

Matt, my son, asked for pictures showing discernible puzzle progress. I’m confident that I soon will be able to send him a picture of the completed food truck menu, centered perfectly by my proper iPhone-camera-holding position.  


Bill Levine is a retired IT professional and active freelance writer. Bill aspires to be a humorist because it is easier to be pithy than funny. He may be reached at wlevine0607@comcast.net.

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