I slowly unpack Boggle ~ plastic cube, 16 dice, timer, scrap paper, pens. I have not played since my injury. I have not been able to face playing since my injury. The idea of the loud clanking as the word cubes are jumbled… that sounds hellish.
Today, I want to play a game with my mom, regardless of pain or discomfort… or embarrassment. I tried Scattergories after my injury. It was not a confidence builder. One, two or three words out of twelve in a minute, sometimes none at all. How will it be with Boggle?
Boggle is something my mom and I have played for decades. I do not remember when we started playing, precisely, but I do know I was young and still living at home. Many an afternoon or evening were spent playing Boggle, striving head to head against my mom – my only real competition. Her with the better vocabulary, me with the greater attention to detail (tot, tots, tote, toted, totes, dot, dots, dote, dotes). Three and four letter words are the bread and butter of my Boggle game.
I gather all the dice in the plastic container. Mom staffs the three minute hourglass. I dutifully shake the Boggle game, my arm under the table in the hopes of dulling some of the racket. I inwardly cringe, but am surprised when the noise is not as painful as I expected. It is just noise, not destruction of my mental faculties. It is just unpleasant sound, not a deal breaker, a game changer, an end to a fun evening. Two weeks ago, I expect it might have been different, perhaps tomorrow it will be again, but tonight… all is fine.
As I jostle the last cubes into a properly flat state on the 4×4 grid, Mom grips the timepiece, ready to begin. I set the puzzle on the table, Mom flips the timer, we grip our pens tightly, hovering over the scrap paper and beginning our word search.
I look at the 4×4 matrix. I feel present and alert and Goddess bless, I see words. Really. My brain is not in a fog right now. My mind remembers these patterns, this game from years ago. I jot down small words, one after another, quickly. My eyes looking for patterns and the opportunity to reuse core letters (“ap” means nap, map, tap, sap, lap, gap; “et” means net, met, set, let, get). Time passes as my pen moves over paper. I am full of the moment, of thinking, of solving a puzzle, of feeling my mind deftly testing different combinations of letters to make words. Such a pleasant feeling, one that has been missing from my life for months.
Time is up. Round #1: 34 points. Yay me – I did well! Hmmm… perhaps it is a fluke – maybe this particular puzzle was easier than normal. Let us see what game 2 offers.
Time is up. Round #2: 26 points …
Time is up. Round #3: 35 points. !!!
I can play Boggle again. Maybe I am not grabbing longer words out of the air the way I once may have, but I am at least competitive. Thirty words in three minutes is not bad. I can live with that. And it may keep getting better.
Mom and I move on to cribbage. I unpack the board and cards. It has been so long I have to remind myself and my mom of the order of play. As I read through the instructions, Mom opens up the deck of cards included with the game and starts to shuffle. I glance over and my eyes start to glaze. The cards look to me like they are vibrating.
They have a horehound pattern, pretty common as patterns go. However, with my brain injury, they are simply a no-go. I can not look at those cards. I can not stand to touch those cards. They feel wrong to my eyes and my head. Funny the unexpected difficulties that arise due to a knock on the head. This is an easy fix, at least.
I set them aside and grab my favorite deck ~ Wildflowers of America. The back is not particularly pleasant, but at least it isn’t horehound. And the cards please me, each card is a different plant with common and scientific name included. It is like glancing at old friends.
Two months ago, I know the added variable of non-standard pictures on the cards would have driven me crazy – too much stimulation. Now, it is simply pleasant and/or neutral, something I can ignore or enjoy as I choose.
Mom and I play and competition heightens. My Lady, Mary, comes home part way through the game and I find that I can not chat and keep track of what I am doing. Nope, not that far along yet. In the end, Mom and I are tied with one point left to victory. Alas, a 10/10/10 laydown battle ensued and I am without an ace. This forces a “Go” from my lips, giving her the winning point. Ack. But a fun game, certainly. I am now able to play cribbage, too. Another personal victory
The next morning, Mom and I play dominoes.
I am not sure how other people play double 12 dominoes, but my family plays it as a math game. You add up the end numbers of the formation, and each time you create a multiple of 5, you get that number of points. It is a lot of fun, especially to polish up your math skills.
Game time ended with a trip to the airport and saying goodbye to my mom. It has been wonderful to have my mom visit, and it has been wonderful to play games again. For months, playing games was not fun – it was draining, difficult, frustrating, and did not make me feel particularly good about myself. Now, the subtle pleasures of quick and easy problem solving are mine, at least some of the time. That feeling, that ability, is not something I realized that I had missed. It is wonderful to feel it again. I am blessed.