Monday, January 13, 2014

Peace and Contentment in the Domino Zone

Dad (at right) plays 42 with other seniors.
Photo by Pam Stephan
At our house, we have a table that is devoted to dominoes. It gets used daily. When my husband comes home from work and I need a break from caregiving so I can make supper, my menfolk play dominoes. After supper, if there's nothing great on TV, the three of us play dominos. Sometimes we may watch half a hour of headline news and then play another match before doing our evening wind-down routines. You get the idea: we play dominoes all the time.

We have a good friend who comes over once or twice a week to be a domino partner, so we can play the more challenging game of 42. It involves trumps, suites, strategy and teamwork. Dad is a master of this game as well as Straight Double 6 dominoes. 

Dad and I go to three different senior centers weekly, where we get lunch and - you guessed it - dominoes! If we don't get a foursome, we might play Moon, a three- handed variation on 42. and if we arrive too late to join in a group, we just play a two person game of regular dominoes. We have tried, but it is a rare day at our house that Dad says he is tired of playing the game. Perhaps he dreams of "rattling dem bones!"

When Dad is at the domino table, regardless of whether or not he's winning, that's when he is at his best. He knows this game well, he feels confident, and he plays to win. Always! When Dad is on a roll during a game, his mood is one of contentment and quiet happiness. The years fall away from his face, that confused "where am I?" expression vanishes, he sometimes chuckles and makes jokes. He feels competent, and having dementia doesn't hold him back at this game - most of the time. That's when I feel about 8 years old and my father seems to be only 38, strong, healthy, and in his prime.

So one evening as we were playing and chatting, Dad got into that Zone where he feels content and secure. As he laid another domino on the board, he remarked, "I don't know where we are, or how we got together here, but I sure am glad we did." His voice was warm and happy, he was smiling.

What he said expressed a lot to me. "I think The Man Upstairs* had a lot to do with it," I replied.

"I think you've got that right," he answered, then said, "Gimme 10."

*the Man Upstairs is how Dad refers to God

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