My Dad would have been 82 years old today. At some point in those 82 years, he bought this puzzle, probably at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the window is on display. I don’t remember any childhood trips to the Art Institute; it was mostly the Science and Industry Museum, the Field Museum or the Aquarium; but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, though I like to imagine him going there alone, wandering the galleries, not 100% sure what he was looking at or how he felt about it, other than he liked some for reasons he couldn’t put to words and didn’t like others for the same, as did I when I was 24, and I would go on the off day from my retail job at Borders Books, walking past the security guards, taking full advantage of the ‘pay what you wish’ policy to pay nothing(I was making $7/hr, and the Art Institute students I worked with told me their tuition made up for it) Or on Thursday nights, when the museum stayed open till 830pm, and admission after 530pm was free.
I don’t know if he had a particular interest in Frank Lloyd Wright, or if it was just something he saw that day that he liked, and so he bought the puzzle to remember it by. Either way, when he got home, he put it aside, until it ended up in a box, which ended up in the attic, where I found it last Christmas going through old things with my Mom. So I took it home and a couple weekends ago, my partner and I put it together. We both like Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. We have visited his home and studio in Oak Park, IL. When we lived in New York, we made the 5.5 hour drive to Fallingwater in Pennsylvania with friends. The Frank Lloyd Room at the Met was a regular Friday night stop, and we made multiple visits to the Moma exhibition celebrating his 150th birthday. Taliesin West is always on the itinerary when we visit family in Arizona.
I tried, briefly, in my head, to make something profound out of finishing a puzzle my Dad had bought many years ago and never started, but there was nothing there, I was just trying to feel something I thought I was supposed to feel, conjuring simple Hallmark emotions, rejected plot points from some middle aged dramedy.
Besides at least a passing interest in Frank Lloyd Wright, we both share(d) a tendency to have the best intentions of doing some project but not always following through, so it was really no surprise to find the puzzle unopened. What do I have sitting around somewhere that someday my nephews might find in some box or on some hard drive and wonder where it came from and what I planned to do with it?
In the last three years, things make me sad that didn’t used to make me sad. Songs that have nothing to do with fathers, YouTube videos of Cubs fans breaking down in tears on that November night in 2016, seeing my brother coach his sons in soccer, watching a neighborhood kid drive his remote control car in the street. These things are rarely directly connected to him in the way the puzzle is, but they dredge a memory or stir an emotion that is alternately easy and impossible to pin down; I can only gesture vaguely toward a reason. It always catches me off guard.
So I’ll leave this puzzle on the table a little longer.