Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Got Games?

Our garage is stuffed to the rafters with bins full of games: old games, new games, parts of games.  We do like a good game.  Our friends refer to Gerard, my husband of 31 years, as "The GameMaster." We meet with them monthly for Game Night.  Sometimes we play games that one of our friends have found or we play dominoes or a card game.  Always Gerard reads the rules or informs the group how the game is played. None of us really have any interest in reading instead of visiting, so this arrangement works out quite well. He knows games and we trust him. Right?

Growing up I didn't play many games but, Gerard and I began playing games before we were married in 1981. I remember the time my best friend, J.Patt and her partner were visiting. We played a game called Hand & Foot (similar to Canasta). It took me a while but I figured out that Gerard and J.Patt were cheating! I found out that he has a history of stacking the deck so other people would win.  This particular incident was not for my benefit.

Gerard loves to tell the story of when he and his brothers were playing Pinochle in Tacoma. Gerard had dealt all the cards out when one of his card loving, elderly relatives, Auntie Grace came out to the carport to see what they were up to.  When she saw he had dealt a fresh set she said "let me take this hand." So David stepped out.

Gerard offered to reshuffle but she insisted everything was fine as it was.  After the exchange, she discovered she had a 1500 Pinochle in her hand she nearly hit the roof! She stopped the game (well it was really over anyway) and called all the relatives out to see this often heard of but never witnessed event.  Auntie Grace told everyone she met about that hand.  For years.  The first time we were introduced, she mentioned this miracle to me.

She never knew Gerard had rigged the deck to see the reactions of his brothers, not his aunt.  Gerard confessed to his dad what he had done.  His father wisely told him, "You can never tell her the truth, she will die believing she earned that 1500 Pinochle." (Auntie Grace has since passed away, so it's okay to go public with the story.)

Gerard also loves to teach a new game.  He taught me how to play cribbage, which is a counting game... I do not like counting, but I couldn't lose at this game.  I asked if he was letting me win? He was adamant (not Adam Ant) and said he had tried to win. Most games he plays, he can win at some point, but he doesn't have to and it is nice to play with some one who doesn't have to win. (I prefer to win.)

My GameMaster also loves to create games.  We have worked together on many game projects over the years.  He works out the strategy and details, I help with the graphics and design. This is a perfect blend of our talents. Even our kids get involved in playing the games and offering suggestions, helping us work out the kinks. Together we can create some pretty fun boards.

To help with the chores, Gerard even invented a Clue-like game using our house but added in cleaning tasks that were to be completed. Each player would go from room to room and at a certain point in the game, everyone had to stop and clean in the area their playing piece had landed. It certainly added a different twist to cleaning and chores.

One evening, while watching Late Night with David Letterman, one of our favorite programs, he decided to make a game from the show.  Of course if you know David Letterman, it had to be called "Know Your Cuts of Meat." (Yes the game features a "Big Ass Ham.")

Gerard spent hours researching different types of meats and their cuts and came up with hundreds of question cards.  We included trivia about the band and funny incidents from certain episodes we had seen over the years, including Letterman's encounters with Richard Simmons and his "NOprah Oprah" campaign about not being invited on the Oprah Show.

I enjoyed the making of this game.  We worked on it together. It was time intensive and I loved working out all the details with Gerard.  I had total freedom with the design and we put together an excellent board game. Those were fun times.

We don't have much time these days with me back in school and starting a new job. Gerard is still working weekends to help pay for my schooling.  Times are tough, but we still have our monthly game night dangling in front of us like a carrot keeping us moving forward to the prize. Our friends are good sports.

We do love playing games. Everything I know about games, I learned from the GameMaster.

Every now and then you gotta ask yourself, "Do I feel lucky?"  I do.  I got games... but I also have the GameMaster... so if we don't "got games," we can make 'em!

The Know Your Cuts of Meat Game by Gerard and Darcy Cline
In our house, Gerard is also "The CakeMaster"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friends Forever

Marcella, Marcella, Marcella.  Marcella Bateman died Wednesday night. She was 80 years old and was a member of my writers group, WWW (Wild Women Writers.) She got such a giggle out of that name.  Marcella knew how to laugh.  That, I think, was her special gift.  That and writing... and being extremely kind... and a little bit naughty... and inspiring people to love her.

The first time I saw Marcella, was in 1997 in Puyallup High School as I waited outside classroom 107.  I had decided to take a writing class and I was watching the glass door as she stepped through, momentarily blocking the evening light.

Our teacher for Fiction and Biography Writing was late. When instructors are late, I tend to doubt myself and I was feeling quite alone until this cute little dark-haired lady walked in, looking frustrated and a little frantic.

She asked "are you waiting for Marjorie Rommel's class?"

"Yes, I am." I was instantly relieved to hear her speak that name. I was in the right place and so was she.

"Oh, thank goodness." Out of breath, she continued on in a rush. "I parked clear on the other side of the building."

Of Course I noticed the wheeled oxygen tank and the clear plastic tubing attached to her nose.  She was winded but I couldn't offer her a seat in the hall so as other students arrived, I began to over-share my reasons for taking a writing class.  "I was reading these novels... and they just didn't go along like I wanted them too... and my sister is a poet so I don't have any interest in poetry... I've never taken a writing class before... blah blah blah. I just kept chatting, because I was nervous about taking a writing class and I wanted the dark haired lady to catch her breath without actually pointing out, "you, my dear, are out of breath."

I can't say for sure what she wore that day but after knowing her all these years, I find myself filling in those blanks with a floral, most likely blue or lavender polyester blend top with matching slacks, topped off with a sweater to keep her slight frame warm, her dark brown salon-do perfectly placed. I can picture her now, patting her hair to make sure it was presentable, her lips painted red and smiling a warm and welcome greeting. Marcella, neat and tidy, cared very much about her appearance.

That day in the hallway, I think she must have had her folder in hand, filled with some of the biographical stories she wrote during her time as a clerk with the Puyallup Police Department, a job she felt lucky to have had along with funny stories of the Sweet Adelines and her stint as one of their members.

That image is how I will always see Marcella.  I am sure she would have preferred not to include the oxygen tank as part of who she was but, we don't get to choose how our friends will remember us. All of those things and how she cared about people is what I will smile about when I am not so sad at the loss of her. She was my dear friend.

My association came after she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension: a result of her years of smoking, which she mentions in a poignant short story she wrote. Marcella was told to "get your affairs in order.  You have about five years to live." That statement would be a difficult thing to hear from a doctor. But Marcella put a smile on and between her and Roy, they got her affairs in order and while they were at it, they got his in order too.

After that first writing experience, I took another class, and another and yet another.  Eventually, some of the women I met in these writing classes started a writers' group.  What a novel idea. At the time of the first meeting, I couldn't participate, but I had made a strong connection with one of the ladies in the group and she invited me to come to a meeting.  This is where I met some of the most wonderful women I have ever known and the Wild Women Writers were born.

Marcella Bateman was part of this group.

We met once a month and that didn't seem like enough time.  We were all writing some very powerful words and each of our stories, like us, were so different.  The creativity was limitless.  At every meeting, I felt like I had stepped into this incredible world of fact and fantasy.  For me, it was like a new awakening and I began to care very deeply for our little group and each of these ladies filled a different spot in my heart.  We spent our first hour visiting and catching up on the events of our daily lives. The second hour was for our writing.

In this lovely, safe and creative atmosphere, I developed a friendship with Marcella.  She was always such a positive influence in the way she carried herself everyday and in her writing.  She wrote non-fiction and was very careful to write positively about people she worked with over the years.  That was her main concern.  She asked us on more than one occasion, "Do you think that would hurt their feelings?"

I visited Marcella at her home on Wednesdays and we became close. Her focus shifted after her husband, Roy died.  She went from working on compiling her stories for a book, to cleaning out the house and making it easier for Tina and Penny, her daughters, in anticipation of her own death which the doctors told her should have occurred years ago. She showed them!

As part of her "clearing out" plan, she wrote vignettes about the history of heirlooms that she and Roy had collected over the years. She attached the story and then gave them to family members that could relate to those items. I always thought these were incredibly kind gifts. 

When my family moved out of the area, I didn't see that much of my writers. I missed my Wednesdays with Marcella.  The WWW continued to meet and those group meetings got me through each month.  I missed my chats with Marcella, but we did talk on the phone occasionally.

The most difficult thing about Marcella being gone, is that I know time got away from us. I hear about this kind of thing happening often; we get busy, we don't make time and we miss out. I am sad because I missed her and will continue to miss her, I know Marcella wouldn't want me to be sad. She would want me to think of her and smile... to remember the music and the laughter that were the life-force she shared with us in our meetings and as a friend. She also would want us to reminisce about her writing.  She was a terrific writer of nostalgia and the documentation of her family history, stories she told with love and care. 

This is who Marcella, my friend was...is for me.  A kind spirit. I know she would love for us to be BFFs. I can almost hear her giggle, nudge Roy and wink at us from heaven.  Best friends forever.

Marcella and Me at her 80th Birthday party.