Sunday, June 02, 2002

Stay In The Game

On Thursdays, I play Scrabble with my 94-year old friend, Ruth. She and I were talking the other day about games. She's played games her whole life and when times are tough, she likes to get out the cribbage board, or dig up the Monopoly game or deal a nice hand of Hearts. She says a big part of life is just learning how to get through the hard times, the lonely times, the sad times -- you just have to learn to stay in the game.

She often asks me if I remember things that I couldn't have possibly lived through, but it's great to have her ask anyway. She told me about a dance she went to once which sounded like so much fun — in 1923 — I think I was there in spirit — I can do quite a knee-knocking Charleston. She asks me if I remember the 1918 Influenza epidemic. I tell her I have read about it. Her father died that year -- she was 10, a young girl in New Hampshire. "That's when I learned to be tough and just get through," she tells me. She talks about some of her favorite Scrabble players, now all dead, but she remembers all the special ways they had of playing — who could come up with the most amazing words, who could play fast as lightning to keep the pressure on their opponent, who always drew too many letters and kindof cheated a bit. She misses them. "I don't know how people get through life without playing games," she says.

This afternoon, Jackson, my 6-year-old son and I are learning new games. He's just starting Scrabble Junior. He's finally learning cribbage with me and leaving the little pegs in my cribbage board alone, instead of playing with them and losing them as he did when he was younger. We're playing an art game called Masterpiece. You buy famous paintings and the values are assigned to them randomly. He's mad he just bought a painting he loves — Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and the value card says "Forgery" which means it's not worth the $4,000,000 in phony money he had to pay. We have a Starbuck's mug with their version of the famous painting on it and he loves that mug. I ask him how the painting makes him feel. "It looks fun to stay up late at night," he says, "but the people look lonely."

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