We lived with my mother’ folks when I was ten and my Grandpa had a chess set.  I learned the basic moves by reading the directions that were in the box and then I badgered him into playing me a game.  I lost the early games but then I caught on enough to beat him.  After that, he would only play chess with me if I agreed to play checkers with him. I didn’t do nearly as well at checkers.

When I was in high school, I borrowed a book titled “How to Win at Checkers” and I gained some insight into the game.  I never did play anymore checkers with grandpa but when I was in the Navy, I sat in on a game at the YMCA in San Diego.  There was a fellow there who  was playing eight or ten people at the same time.  He beat everybody but one and he told me that he wasn’t sure which one of us would win if we played it out but if I agreed to a draw, he would give me five dollars, two packs of cigarettes and three candy bars. That sounded pretty reasonable to me and I accepted his offer.

Years later when my youngest was about six, he challenged me to a game of checkers and I told him I didn’t know how to play.  He said he would teach me and I saw that I wasn’t going to get out of playing.  We played several games and I kept the games pretty close but I always beat him by a little bit.  He teared up a at that point and one of his big sisters asked him “what was the matter?”  He said he “must be a really terrible checker player because he was teaching me how to play and I was beating him.” She told him that “maybe I had just forgotten that I knew how to play.” He picked up on what she was trying to tell him and he was conspicuously accusatory when he shook his finger at me and said; “You knew.”

I probably warped his little mind with my sense of humor when they were growing up but they weren’t beyond getting even. He wasn’t much older than that when he got mad at me and called me the worst thing he could think of. He called me a “little runt” and I think he was the only one that ever called me that.

When the kids were quite small, I sneaked them each a cookie while their mother was fixing dinner. They were called Carnival Cookies and they were little animals covered with white or pink icing and they had multi-colored sprinkles on them. They very quickly popped the cookies into their mouths but when I put one in mine, I heard a chorus of “Mom, Dad’s in the cookies” and that got me in big trouble with their mother.

If it were possible that we could go back to when they kittens and puppies, I would enjoy that very much.  I mentioned that to my wife and she told me that I should make myself an appointment at the mental health clinic. It is only fair to say that she was the primary care giver and she had her hands full. She used to give me a big build up and a drum roll when I got home and that resulted in me getting mobbed by the munchkins. Meanwhile, I think she locked herself in the bathroom for a little peace and quiet.

I have enjoyed my kids and I suspect that when the last grains of sand trickle though my hour glass, I won’t be thinking about my accomplishments and all my toys.  I suspect that instead, I will be thinking about being separated from my family.

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