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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The last six years of her life, my Aunt Rose was mostly homebound. At home she used an oxygen concentrator, and on the rare occasion that she did venture out, it was with an oxygen tank on a cart, which she jokingly referred to as her doggy on its leash. She was sharp as a whip, and despite her many medical issues, she tried to maintain a positive attitude.

We, her family, all loved to visit her. Whenever we did, we always sought to buy something to brighten her day. Once, on a whim, I bought her a Sudoku book and two pretty sharpened pencils. It was the best thing I could have purchased. I showed her how to do one easy puzzle, and she took to it like the proverbial duck to water.

Within one hour, she had advanced to the medium puzzles, and she never looked back. Sudoku became her passion, and she tried to pass it on to her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. She even taught her home health aides how to do the number puzzles. On one visit, I found her quite upset. She actually had tried to make her own puzzle, but she got stuck at the last line.

Shortly after introducing Aunt Rose to the joys of Sudoku, I had to travel to Eastern Europe. As we drove through Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine, I picked up Sudoku books in every gas station that we frequented. Though she couldn’t read the text, and neither she nor I even knew which one was from which country, she loved this gift. After all, numbers are the same in every language.

Aunt Rose never listened to her doctors’ instructions that she walk more, to exercise her body. Sudoku, on the other hand, she called, “exercise for my brain.” She chided her contemporaries who showed no interest, scolding them and warning that “if you don’t use your head you will end up suffering from dementia.”

When she visited the doctor, or had to wait her turn for x-rays and other medical tests, she always had a Sudoku book in her purse, to help her pass the time pleasantly. Even during her last hospital stay, she never was without a Sudoku book at her side. The $3.49 that I spent on the book and the $.99 for the two pencils, was the best purchase I have ever made. It was the source of so much pleasure for an elderly woman at the end of her life.

Aunt Rose has been gone for four years. Even now, whenever I open a newspaper or magazine and see the ubiquitous Sudoku puzzle, I remember dear Aunt Rose.

By P. Samuels