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Home for the holidays


No Fleck family gathering is complete without a game of cards. Back in the day the adults played Spades, Hearts, Canasta, Rummy, Tripoli and the old standard, Pinochle. Children were gradually brought into the pastime. If someone had to go to the restroom it was a great honor to be deemed old enough to play a hand. By the time I was 10, I could hold my own in all the games mentioned and more.
This holiday I made it home and we played “The Six Card Game.”
Actually, when the game was first introduced to our family it was named Golf but we stopped calling it that because it sets off my half-brain-dead, redneck, proudly politically incorrect baby brother Bobby who insists golf is gay. What can I say? You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. You can also pick your nose but you can’t pick your friend’s nose, but that’s another story.
Golf is a simple game with each player getting only six cards. The object is to go out with the low hand, and losers pay the winner a coin, usually a nickel or a dime. A total score is kept for all the hands and the lowest score wins a quarter from each contestant. If the big winner is a visitor they collect just enough for the first tollbooth on the way home. If Mom or Dad wins, the money goes into a jar they keep. In the jar is Mom’s lucky dollar ring, a greenback she won many years ago and folded into a ring. It’s so old now that you have to look closely to see it’s a buck.
Mom and Dad were both doing fine on this last visit: they are still as frugal as ever and doing well for a couple of near-90-year-olds.
For my visit they were proud to report that they had purchased bagels from the Aldi store. “They’re the best bagels ever,” Dad said, and Mom chimed in, “And they only cost $1.59 a dozen.”
“And,” Dad added, “they come sliced.”
Dad has just enough vision to play simple cards games like Golf but that’s about it. He’s fun to play with, however, because he has a steady stream of jokes ready for every situation. He was looking for a certain card in our most recent game without success and he complained, “I can’t even draw flies.” Ever since he fell a year ago and broke a hip he uses a walker to get around. But he still gets around plenty, just a lot slower.
Mom, who was 4-foot-10 in her prime, has settled to a mere 4-foot-6 inches. Years of scrubbing floors, flipping burgers at McDonald’s and raising dumbbells (us kids) has left her with severe arthritis in her arms and shoulders so she can’t reach much higher than her waist. In the evening, she likes to watch her own television shows on an old set kept in a spare bedroom. After about a half hour the screen goes dim but Mom would hear nothing of getting a new one. “I just turn it off for 15 minutes and then I can catch the end of my program,” she reported.
Luckily, and much to his credit, Bobby has proven to be a devoted son who is always on hand to change light bulbs, shovel snow, trim trees, till the garden, etc. My other brothers and I try to pitch in but we all live much farther away, so most the odd jobs fall to Bobby. He had an accident at work recently, and shoulder surgery is in his near future. If only he had hurt his mouth.
While they can’t do as much for themselves any more, the folks’ memories and mental faculties are excellent.
On this last visit, for example, they asked if I could help them with a problem that they didn’t want to bother Bobby with. About six years ago they had bought his and hers Sonicare toothbrushes. Mom liked hers but Dad didn’t, so they put his away on the top shelf of the linen closet. Lately, Mom has noticed that the bristles on her brush have worn away and she wanted to put on a replacement. Rather than buy one, they remembered they put Dad’s on the shelf. They tried to retrieve it but Dad couldn’t see it and Mom couldn’t get close to reaching it. I looked and there it was; now she’s good for another six years, even though it’s recommended that the brush be replaced every six months.
It was a great visit, and I agree, the bagels were delicious.