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The Cranky Old Retired Lady
Opinions, wailings and observations of a cranky, old retired lady on life after 50.

OLD EUCHRE PLAYERS NEVER DIE...

I hope you don't mind a story here. It's sentimental. Not being a great euchre player, but a steady partner, euchre is a game I love to play with those who will put up with me. So when I landed in a nursing home after a long and debilitating illness, imagine my heavenly release from boredom when I discovered several other players and we started playing every day.

Three of these players were a minister, and two US armed services veterans--one WWII and the other Vietnam era. The three gentlemen were 12 yrs, 30 yrs and 14 yrs my senior so I was the baby of the group. We were diverse in background but we ALL LOVED to play! We couldn't see that well or hear that well or even hold the cards that well. But we adapted our games with card holders, large print cards and bought cubes to keep track of trump that had suite symbols that were big enough for everyone to see. We cajoled (okay, we badgered) the administrator to purchase a big, round game/card table and would set in a corner of the large activity room and talk and play and tell somewhat off colored jokes and howl with laughter so loud the nurses would come around the corner and observe tears streaming down our faces as we laughed and snorted coffee out our noses if the silliness was ill timed. Then realizing we were just having too much of a good time, the ladies in white would walk off shaking their heads and muttering. A one point I found a small plastic donkey about three inches high and during one raucous game with lots of good-natured insults I placed it on the table and sarcastically said to all if you don't like my dealing you can kiss this where upon the small plastic jackass was set in front of the offending party and more laughing and howling came from our corner. It became the game mascot. It was passed around to different players to be held up smugly anytime you got the little trash cards.

Now the minister had this sense of humor that burned slow. When he made some sly statement our brains took it in, pondered it and by the time the hand was dealt we were laughing, groaning and trying to shake the feeling of being mentally "had." WWII and Vietnam would swap war tales and tease each other about which branch of the service was better. Ever day we reviewed yesterday's games picking on techniques, how gutsy such-and-such a move was, who was cheating, etc. And then one day it happened...the cards were dealt. The final card was flipped up revealing a trashy little nine of clubs. We all peered at it groaning and griping only to look up and see Vietnam guy with a slow spreading, all-teeth grin breaking out across his face. We awaited for him to pass, order up, or something but he started to chuckle which turned into a laugh which gave way to a slow head-shaking. And he simply fanned his hand down on the table before us. It contained BOTH bowers, the ace, king and queen...all black, all spades. A true unicorn. Our jaws all dropped at the same time. Five decades of playing the game and I had never seen the perfect hand until that day. Probably won't see another one in this life time. We all tossed our cards to the center, took a break to refill coffee and dealt the next hand.

We formed good friendships and after I was able to leave and get my own place again I would go back once, sometimes twice a week, and spend an afternoon playing euchre, laughing too loud and drinking bad coffee with my buddies.

Then Covid. It shut down jobs and lives and all things social. And because nursing homes contain the most vulnerable ones, they locked them down as tight as maximum security prisons. No visitors. No outside, "non-essential" people. No more euchre. I was now an outsider. Our little world of fun we'd created was halted, patiently waiting to resume. I missed my friends but communication in a nursing home is hard. People our ages don't do well with smart phones or even dumb phones. And if you can't hear the phone or see the screen you may as well be talking into a brick. Staff don't have time to set up phones or explain technology. Phone calls became less and less. I sent notes and gift bags and treats hoping to encourage my friends in their guarded and sealed dungeon.

As lock down drug on I think my friends began to give up in their isolation. The minister was the first to go in April. I lost track of others in the group only to find out some had been discharged or moved. This month my veteran friends both died within 24 hours of each other. So, I sit here and selfishly wonder with whom will I play riotous games of euchre? Funny how a silly card game united a group of diverse people and brought them together in what could have been a very lonely place. It was normalcy, company and friendship over something as small as a deck of cards.

Rest well good friends. The journey is over. It was an honor and a pleasure playing with you.

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