I did not stand in the lines of gamers for Sony’s PS3, but I believe in the power of games – the ones with dice, cards, boards, and pieces.
Last summer when a severe thunderstorm plunged our neighborhood into darkness, we stared at the DVD just rented from Blockbuster and then turned to some old favorites: Yahtzee, for one, that taught my daughter many of her multiplication tables. We moved on to countless rounds of Chinese Checkers and Aggravation – but still no lights!
“Why can’t we play the game in the case that you and Grandma Jane play, ” my daughter implores.
“But you don’t know the rules. It’s kind of complicated,” I answer.
“Well, it’s not like we have anything better to do,” Genny rebounds.
I crack open the Backgammon board. Its bright green, pool table felt surface that highlight red and white vinyl spaces remind me that this board has outlasted the monogrammed sweaters and Levi straight legs of Christmas, 1979 gifts. We laboriously play until bed time. The September following that summer evening black out, Genny entered 9th grade, the world of soccer, sleep-overs, endless homework, and babysitting. After she and I have not connected for (48+) hours, I see Genny as I turn around. The Backgammon board is in her hand, “Do you want to play, Mom?
Non-electronic games are nothing new for my family. My grandparents were devoted Pinochle players, a card game with its own deck ranging from the 9 to Ace with each suit appearing twice. During her last years, visits to my grandparents’ house were difficult as my grandmother’s dementia advanced. Our conversations were punctuated by her multiple groans and admonitions “not to get old”. Then I would suggest playing Pinochle. With the cards on the table, my grandmother was free from Alzheimer’s as she took tricks, saved me from bad hands, and called opponents’ misplayed cards. My grandmother’s Pinochle playing could have aided strategists at the Pentagon, but her sister’s approach to cards, my Aunt Marie’s, was legendary. In Pinochle, Jacks, Queens, and nines are “non-point” cards. At one family gathering, I made (2) unthinkable mistakes. I agreed to be Aunt Marie’s partner and volunteered to take the cards as each hand was played. When I announced that we failed to make the bid, Aunt Marie grabbed the cards. As I watched her recount, I noticed that she audibalized a point for the queens we had collected and promptly announed a score that equalled our bid. No one dared to question her new total, the pronouncement of a woman who ultimately lived to age 92.5, overcame cancer twice, and survived multiple heart attacks.
The games I believe in do not require nimble thumbs or teen-age reflexes. In their movement of pieces and decisions over the roll of the di and playing of cards, the games I believe in connect, heal, and teach and even urge us to take on adversity by “counting a few queens”.
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