Fifty-Two Reasons

It was a simple game of cards. Go Fish, a classic children’s card game, captivated my 4-year-old granddaughter for part of Thanksgiving Day. Each time she realized she had found a matching card, she giggled with happiness. And that joy was shared by this grateful grandmother.

When we were kids, card games were always an option for a rainy or snowy day. We learned from an early age how to play War, Concentration, Crazy Eights, Old Maid and even poker when we were a little older.

You could play cards anywhere. There was no need to be tethered to an electrical cord. In the heat of the summer, you could play cards on the cool cement of the front porch or even by lantern light in a pup tent in the backyard.

When a deck of cards came out of the drawer, there was no preparation needed, except maybe to keep the dog or cat from walking across your field of Concentration cards. The biggest obstacle to card playing was finding a complete deck without too many dog-eared cards. It was a rite of passage to teach the younger siblings how to play a card game and watch their excitement when they figured it out.

Decks of cards could be found in Christmas stockings and despite all the other gifts under the tree, the cards probably saw the most use over the course of the year. Cards outlasted crashed model airplanes, deflated footballs and broken dolls.

Playing the assorted card games taught us how to think, not just push a button on a game controller. We learned how to outwit our opponents and be patient in our next move.

When poker became trendy among teenagers, there were games played, but without any monetary betting. Our dad abhorred gambling and disallowed such “nonsense.” His outlook on gambling, however, did not exclude a friendly wager on the back nine of an Oglebay golf course, we came to learn.

Our mother loved card games. She was our impetus for learning various games. I’m not sure if that was to keep us busy or her love for cards. Her one regret was that none of wanted to learn how to play bridge. She played well into her later years and was proud of that.

While she taught us how to play games, she was too busy herself to join in the fun. It was only when she was failing in health that card games facilitated a new closeness with our mother. Whether while still in her own home, in the hospital or nursing home, cards became our quality time. She introduced several new, more complicated games in which she excelled.

My favorite and last fond memory of my mother was sitting in a hallway of Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center. We were near a window, bright with sunshine and my mother was piling up the wins as we played Uno. Those last few cards games were the best days of our mother-daughter lives. There are 52 cards in a deck. Make each one count.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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