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  • ellenwohl712

SNAP! It's All In The Game

After Thanksgiving dinner and all through the weekend, we like to play games. It started when I was a little kid with my aunts playing penny-ante poker after the big dinner. The table was cleared and out came the cards. We graduated from card games to board games, like Trivial Pursuit, and those that require a team, Pictionary and Charades.

Our love of games proved to be crucial while Jack waited for test results or surgery.

I knew all about waiting. Whether flying around the country on a business trip or traveling with Jack and the kids on vacation, there’s no more helpless feeling than being stuck in an airport during a flight delay or onboard the plane for an endless holdup on the tarmac waiting to take off.

We encountered the same helpless feeling while in a holding pattern at home. Waiting for tests. Waiting for surgery. In fact, there were times when the wait felt worse than the illness. We needed to stay occupied and maintain some sort of routine.

Life has always been a game for Jack. When he studied elementary education at Kent State University, he made up great learning games for his students. He still talks about his masterpiece, Math-o-poly.

I used to like games. Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, Facts in Five. Games that made me think. I don’t enjoy “roll the dice” games. Maybe it’s because Jack and the kids are so competitive. During a heated game of Life, nine-year-old Lindsay got so frustrated she flipped the board and said, “I quit.” And forget about Monopoly. Jack memorized the board. When he rolls the dice, he knows exactly where to move his racecar. If he’s challenged, he counts it out and is always right. In general, I’m just not good at games, but I’m happy to play along just to be sociable or to pass the time. Having “Game Night” with another couple turned out to be a pleasant, low-key way to get together.

Our friends Ava and David re-introduced us to Rummikub. It’s a game our moms played forty years ago. Because it’s a tile game, it was perfect to play outdoors on a summer night. If there was a breeze or a hurricane, nothing blew away! Rummikub takes only limited concentration unless we are playing a cutthroat game which, in Jack’s case, uses intense strategy. I don’t know how his brain still figured out all the number combinations. But it did.

Jack is a natural at poker, gin, or any game of cards. (I think it’s genetic because his grandmother ran neighborhood poker games during the depression and repeatedly won.) Our grandchildren love to play with him. Reese looked like a little card shark bringing her deck of Crazy Eights to the rehab hospital. Addy’s game is Uno. The fast-moving card game keeps us laughing as the cards send the game in different directions.

Back in 1972, Jack and I were in several bowling leagues. Of course, he was a fantastic bowler. For some reason, every bowling alley had an array of pinball machines, and I was a pinball wizard.

You’d think my enthusiasm for pinball would translate over to the next generation, video games. I’ll admit that Wii bowling is a lot of fun. We’ve taken part in Wii bowling competitions on a huge flat-screen. It wouldn’t be complete without pretzels, chips, and beer frames!

In general, video games just aren’t my thing. But still, I can get lost in a hypnotic game of Candy Crush. When I click on the game, it even encourages me to “swipe away stress” or “escape the stress of today.” Swapping pieces of candy and watching the columns and rows drop is addictive. It’s exhilarating to create the bonus nonpareils, the striped jellybeans, and the wrapped candy. But then I scold myself for wasting an hour that I’ll never get back. I have to admit that it is mindless and relaxing.

Once again, my Jack-of-all-trades can beat anyone at any game. His brain works in mysterious ways. I certainly can’t explain how he dominates every game. He repeatedly defeats everyone we know in Words with Friends, an online word game. (It got to the point that friends won’t play with him, so he plays Words with Strangers.)

Playing games was a remarkable distraction when we needed it most. Then it took Jack all the way through recovery. Games and puzzles helped build memory skills. At the beginning of rehab, it took him several days to complete one Word Search puzzle. In a matter of weeks, he was zipping through one a day, then two or three a day. Relaxation and rehabilitation. Who knew it was all a game?

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