Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Often we use the phrase "playing games" about psychological games, subtle manipulation through unspoken messages we send to others. As I am trying to shed game-playing as a form of communication in relationships, I am struck by the very different and important role games have played in my life.
My dad was an avid crossword puzzler, conquering the Sunday New York Times puzzle weekly until Alzheimer's stole his brain. I watched him, envied his ability and vocabulary, and inherited his love of lazing away hours on a Sunday to do nothing but engage his brain and his loved ones with the challenge of a good puzzle. One of his favorite crossword puzzle stories was about the word "yatagan", a word which is apparently used frequently and which most of us have little use for in daily conversation.
My ex-husband, too, had a huge vocabulary and a strong facility for crossword puzzles. After his traumatic brain injury, it was sobering to watch as we spent long hours playing Boggle, watching him try to form words of more than two letters and attempt - and fail - to do even the Monday puzzles.
Since living alone, I have been drawn to online Scrabble and Lexulous with friends on Facebook. While I lose more than I win, I enjoy the challenge and, frankly, the contact with others. I began to know and ultimately date one of my opponents. I have learned more about one opponent than I ever imagined, and have been able to re-connect with an old friend through the game. I have learned that there is a community of players who are "assisted" using online tools, and a community who would never consider that. When people criticize the reality of community on FB, I have to counter with the attention of my Scrabble and Lex friends, some of whom pick up the phone in concern if they have not "heard" from me in a game for a few days.
And then came today, when I was handed the letters needed to form "yatagan", my dad's favorite word. Though it did not get me as many points as another combination of letters would have, I had to play the word - for Dad and for that connection.