My Last Games With Nana

I have had many board gaming experiences, yet none have ever truly moved me to tears of joy until this weekend.  This last weekend gave me an experience and opportunity of a lifetime, one that I will surely never repeat, at least in my Grandmothers lifetime.

This last weekend I took time away from work and our gaming group to make a long trip to see my grandmother and celebrate her 94th birthday.  Just five days before she had suffered a heart attack, still recovering from multiple chest infections, and more health issues and pills than I can comprehend.  Dementia has started, and the sharp mind that I loved, and maybe inherited, was turning on and off.  Her days are numbered.

My trip to see her was one of now just making perhaps my last visit to see her, to let her know I loved her and appreciated all she had done and been for me in my life.  I may not be playing board games if it were not for her.  Monopoly, Scrabble, and many card games, notably 500.  It was with her and my great grandfather, who was also Gordon, known by us all as Gordie.  As his life came towards its end, he spent many an evening with my grandmother and grandfather teaching me cards.  It was a way for us to all pass the time in a fun way to share, and they shared with me their knowledge and skill, insights to the game and strategies.

These were magical moments of my childhood, and they remain with me as life defining moments.

As is our  custom, Ann and I travel with a collection of games.  Short and medium length and complexity, you never know what a trip will bring for gaming opportunities.

On the second day of our visit, we pulled out our games in my grandmothers rest home room while a other family friend was also visiting.  It is hard to describe our hobby, and the games I design.  I had figured the best way was to get some out and play some games.  My grandmother was not able to participate like she wanted, so I gave her a player token and explained played out her moves with some input from her.

First up was Leaping Lilly Pads, my game.  She was wowed and amazed.  She was proud of my efforts.  The four of us setup and started playing.  As the game progressed, my grandmother was intently watching the game, her mind was reaching back to life experiences, and her competitive spirit was roused from a slumber.  All of us had a great game, which my grandmother won comfortably.  She was always a lucky player.

Next up was Tsuro.  By now she was wide awake, her mind was as sharp as it had been perhaps in the last six months or more.  Our dragons flew through the air, wheeling and twisting to dodge each other.  She was frustrated at being third.  She said she was feeling the tension of the happy and competitive excitement, something she had not felt for a long time.

She needed a little break, so I pulled out a new game for Ann and I to learn, Raid The Pantry, a game about cooking.   My grandmother had been a great cook, a caterer, and with my grandfather had owned and operated a bake house for many years.  Through them I had gained my cooking talents.  Now she asked about our recipes we were trying to collect ingredients for.  She was starting to tire, yet she remained fascinated and amazed by the games, and our story of gaming at home and with our groups, plus the recent Wellycon experience and holiday gaming at the public library.

It was an afternoon I will not forget.  I explained that all that time she and my great grandfather had invested in me was now being shared with many more people, that gaming had transformed our lives, and we were making a difference in other people’s lives.  For that short time we relived moments of our past, and awakened within her the Nana I once knew.

My grandmother is a gamer, and she made me one as well.  In turn I have made our children gamers, many of our friends, and made many new friends gamers.  That love she instilled in me is why I want to keep sharing my gaming experiences and bring games into the lives of those who enter my life.

Thank you Nana.


One thought on “My Last Games With Nana

  1. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Gaming has been a part of my connection to my family for many generations. My paternal grandmother ruled the roost at the holidays when the table was cleared and the pinochle cards brought out. My father loved pinochle, chess, canasta, and cribbage. My parents, my older sister, and I played canasta very many nights when we could not afford a television. (My mother played many games, but only to socialise or make a quorum; I lost her to Alzheimer’s a few years ago.) My younger brothers play all sorts of games with me: chess, monopoly, payday, careers, risk, panzerblitz, broadsides, dogfight, civilwar, diplomacy, stratego, ….. (they haven’t made time for me in years). My wife and our daughter sometimes play crayon rails, roborally, careers, munchkin, or flux, but mostly now I play one role-playing game with our daughter, her boyfriend, and a small group of friends. Nobody seems to have much time for face to face games, let alone those with cards and/or boards.

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