Friday, March 27, 2015


It was a staple of my life for over two decades. Thursday night poker. Like in a million other homes around the country. Young fathers, and in later years, not so young fathers, with a night off from the realities of the universe. Like clockwork,year in and year out. As certain as death and taxes.

We each had our role. Mine was that of organizer and happy guy. There was sloppy, goofy, sleepy, dummy and a host of other parts performed by the members of our cast. Bad jokes, bad cards, bad food and extraordinarily good times. It was a kind of Norman Rockwell image of my hometown. 

Faces came and went. But the core group remained intact. That is until the next stage of life intervened. Kids moved out, houses got sold, routines of existence changed. Early retirement beckoned for one of two. And then, one day the game disappeared. Like so many other parts of our journey, what once was forever more, vanished. It became nothing but a stored memory.

A decade passed with little thought or desire of resurrection. Those poker evenings lasted until the early morning hours. Now, at the time of night I would have been returning home, I am typically heading to the bathroom for at least the second attempt at emptying my bladder. My bedtime is edging ever closer to the dinner bell. 

A few months ago, talk of a reunion began. It was almost like one of those old rock groups who gave lip service to bringing the band back together for one final tour. But polite conversation mushroomed into something much more real and yesterday I found myself rummaging through the closet looking for the TNP chips. 

And there I was crossing the George Washington Bridge heading to an apartment in New York City to renew long lost friendships. At 8 PM I was sitting at a table with 6 other guys who looked far too much like my images of my grandfather. I was the only one without gray hair, but that was because mine had left the building decades before. 

It was funny how easily we settled into our old rhythms and banter. Of course there was the obligatory conversation of our memory lapses, as each of us studied the cards in our hand, and then studied them again seconds later, having forgotten what we were holding. And any issue that required mental gymnastics ( "you can use 2 cards in your hand if you choose this row of common cards, and 3 in your hand if you choose that row") proved almost maddeningly incomprehensible, no matter how often or how clearly the explanation was given. 

But it brought us back to the best of times in our lives, when we were young with visions of what lay ahead, with families that gave importance to every moment. These were friends who were there with us at each and every important turn. It was this feeling captured in the context of a poker game, something more, much more than the passing of a few dollars from one pocket to the next. 

And in my mind, and my heart, I still imagine myself as that younger me. With a endless universe of people and possibilities. 

As the evening wore on, it was as if the decade of time apart never happened, as if we had played last Thursday. The same bad decisions were made by the same players, the smart guy won money just as he won nearly every other time we played in the past, sleepy called it a night shortly after 10 PM and the diet cokes that sat next to many of the players when Clinton and Bush were in office, were still there. And guys still put the wrong number of chips in their hand to declare whether they were going "high or low".

At the end of the evening, we promised this would once more become a regular part of our routines. Of course, once a week will now become once a month. And the nights will end much closer to the beginning of the late night shows then their conclusion. 

But time, at least for this group, on this night seemed to reverse itself. We were no longer the social security crowd, but our younger selves, full of laughter and life, eager to hold onto all those in this room as friends, and to be forever young.  

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