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Staying busy fills the gaps in winter
Even for the senior set, a new electronic device opens up another world of reading possibilities

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 2/1/2013

By Cathy Dyson

MY MOTHER, who turns 76 in a few days, has a new tool in her fight against the winter doldrums.

She got a Kindle for Christmas. While she's become an avid reader in recent years, she's never been the kind of great-grandmother who surfs the Web or emails regularly--or at all, for that matter. She'd be the first to tell you that she's not missing anything.

Even though she isn't as well-versed in technology as her great-grandchildren, she quickly figured out how to tear through an electronic book after her granddaughter set up an account and gave her some pointers.

I applaud my mother's willingness to try something new. I also admire the bigger reason beyond it--that she strives to keep her mind busy and, therefore, healthy.

She firmly believes that if you don't use it, you lose it.

Having said all that, there are times when winter skies are so gray and dreary that she doesn't feel like doing anything at all. She says it's as if the weather just sucks the energy right out of her.

She's not the type to sit in front of the television all day, although she does take in the occasional cooking show.

So when she feels glum, she forces herself to open a book, or an electronic reader, in this case.

She also has stacks of word searches and puzzle books nearby. For someone who swears she can't spell, she manages to fill in an awful lot of crossword puzzles--and kick my butt regularly in Scrabble.

If the mood strikes her, she moves to the dining-room table and spreads out 1,000 jigsaw puzzle pieces on a swatch of green felt.

There, she works for hours to complete a colorful scene of the Amish countryside or quilts billowing in the breeze. Those vistas are her favorites, probably because of her Pennsylvania Dutch background. She also pieces together fields of daisies, and shorelines filled with hundreds of the same kind and color of shells.

She and several church members have come up with a neat system of sharing resources. This group of avid readers exchanges books. When one of them reads a novel, a mystery or a Christian romance, she puts her initials on the inside cover and passes the book along to the next person.

Another group does the same with crossword puzzles, although participants hadn't been initialing boxes, last I heard. My mother said she was going to suggest that after the same puzzle made its way to her a second time.

I love the practical aspect of all this. As Mom pointed out, most people read a book or do a puzzle only once, so you might as well get your money's worth by sharing it with others.

Her quest to keep busy also speaks to her determination. I know there have been lonely times for her since my father passed away, two years ago in March. She could let that loneliness overtake her, but she chooses instead to fill her days with activities that fill her mind.

And that's an admirable story line, whether you read it on paper or an electronic tablet.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com