Tuesday, July 27, 2010
If you've been following my thrilling adventures (you shouldn't be - there must be things on your "To Do" list that have been languishing), you know that a good part of my day is spent playing cards with Mary, my mother-not-really-but-sort-of-in-law, who is living with Alzheimer's disease. It is one of the few activities that amuses her, and she really excels at this game. If I had more of a gambling spirit, I would pack an overnight bag, throw Mary in a car and hustle up to Vegas. She has lady luck in spades. I used to think I had to let Mary win in order to preserve her self-esteem. This, of course, is ridiculous, since Mary can't remember winning or losing. I soon realized that, with no effort on my part, Mary was winning more than she was losing, which started to affect my self-esteem. So I started developing a cut-throat, card shark attitude. I formulated strategies that I thought would ensure my winning. I counted cards and held back ones that would assist her victories. I kept chicken-scratch tallies of games won by each of us (I listed her as "Mean Mary" and myself as "Tearful Todd" since she, it turns out, was more successfully competitive than me). And then, one day, my ego suffered a crushing blow.
We were playing a rousing game, and I looked up from my handful of cards to find that Mary had just one card left to discard, which typically meant she would be out in the next turn or two. But the game continued, and I desperately grabbed cards in an effort to secure this most unlikely win over my fierce opponent. "Not so lucky now, are you Mary?" I muttered to her. She just smiled back, with a pitying look. Finally, I drew a card that depleted my hand. I grabbed the pencil and proudly marked another win under my name.
"That was amazing," I said. "I can't believe I won that hand. You always go out when you have one card left."
"Oh well," she said. "You did it!"
Something wasn't right. She didn't look convinced.
"What card did you have left, Mary? I can't believe you couldn't go out."
"Nothing," she said demurely, pulling her one card towards her chest. "I didn't have anything..."
"Let me see," I said, reaching across the breakfast bar and turning her one remaining card over.
It was a deuce! The wild card. A card she could have put down at any time during the course of the game. Mary had (and this is hard to admit) LET ME WIN. A woman with no memory had surmised that I needed a victory to maintain relevance in this life and had purposely let me win.
"I can't believe it, Mary," I whined. "You let me win?"
She hesitated, a hurt look spreading across her face. "Was that so terrible?" she said, consumed with the suspicion that she had done something wrong.
I looked up, suddenly aware that, in her eyes, I was criticizing her behavior. I went over my potential responses and their ramifications. Finally, and without irony, I responded:
"Yes, Mary. That is terrible."
And we both laughed.
The rules for Mary's Rummy game are provided in a sidebar on this blog.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I was going through some old photos the other night, and among many frightening reminders of the past (who let us go out in public in some of the clothes we wore?) were some really sweet photos that made me stop and think about the more pleasant moments in the past. More pleasant, at least, than wearing Spandex mini shorts to a restaurant, or thinking that eyebrows the size of Snickers bars were flattering. I came across a photo of my faithful companion of 15 years, Buck. Buck was, I can safely say, one of the most beautiful dalmatians I've ever seen. He was also one of the most intelligent dogs I've ever met (and I've met quite a few). Unfortunately, he was also one of the most annoying creatures ever to grace the planet. He stole food from strangers when they weren't looking. He ruined furniture. He shed so much that nearly a decade after his passing, I'll occasionally find one of his hairs embedded in a piece of memorabilia. He was notorious for his room-clearing farts. Perhaps most annoying was his refusal to shake hands. It's probably just me, but I love a dog that will shake on command. Buck, despite learning other tricks and following complex verbal commands, particularly when food was involved (i.e. "the treat is in the side yard behind the pecan tree resting on the garden gnome's hand") would simply look to the side, embarrassed, when I would ask him to indulge me and give me his paw. Mind you, he never once did it in his fifteen years with me. Not once. It really pissed me off. It became the ultimate anti-trick. Everyone talks to dalmatians, and everyone asks dogs to shake. And he never willingly put his paw in a person's hand. He had a real superiority complex.
Despite all of these less-than-desirable qualities, he was also great company. He took an active co-pilot position in the passenger seat of my car. He never needed to be on a leash, even in a busy city setting (he was very respectful of all traffic laws). He loved infants and old people. He was really fun at a beach or at a pool party. He even smiled when he saw people he knew and liked (which was everyone except for homeless people and a few acquaintances towards which he held a grudge). I will never have another dog. And I will never stop missing Buck.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Tonight, for the first time ever, I played the game of Life. You begin by choosing a car. Apparently life begins once you get your driver's license. You start out alone. You randomly choose a career. I chose "Teacher" which begins with a starting salary of zero dollars - you have to wait until everyone else has collected a salary, and then you get whatever salary is left over. After a short while, you trade in your teaching position for a real job that pays a bit more. You spin and pretty soon you are married. You choose a partner that is either the same color as you (blue or pink) or the opposite color. Apparently, anyone can get married in this game of Life. You set out on a path that eventually leads to you making some money, having children (even if you don't want them), paying taxes, and buying a house that will either gain or lose value. Life seems like it takes forever, despite the fact that you only have to get through the game board one time. When, exhausted, you reach the end of the game, you choose between two retirement facilities - one in which you gamble your life savings away, and one in which you get to keep what you have but have no option of making any more money. And you win the game of Life, by having the most money. I happened to finish in last place - I had the least amount of money, my house lost value, and I was in a sucky nursing home. But I played happily, and I had a lot of friends around me in the retirement center. And I still had my car. So I considered it a success despite what my bank account said.