Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hungry for Chess

He left me. The emptiness I feel inside cannot be filled in any other way. I miss the occasional glances across the travertine marble table, the quiet comments, candles brightening the board, tumblers of Glenlivet Scotch.

Utterances such as “Oh no, I didn’t see that,” “Crap!” and “Can I take that back? My hand was only off the piece for a second” enveloping an otherwise peaceful environ added perfectly to the ambience.

Only once did it end in complete frustration, maybe twice. After all, it’s not about winning, it’s how you play the game.

He left me to move back to Delaware to be closer to his daughters. Although he loved Colorado, skiing, kayaking, gardening, and international travel from this centrally located state, he said, “If something happens to me, it makes more sense for me to be in Delaware than for both girls’ families to come here. You know, I’m almost 82.”

So the next thing I knew, we were throwing a love-filled farewell gathering for George and Jeanne. They had lived in Colorado for about 30 years: she, a retired school nurse, he, a navy guy with a PhD in chemistry who had worked until retirement for DuPont. In Telluride, he’d taken to gardening, and lucky for me, he taught me what I know in that department—and how to drink Scotch.

From spring till autumn, I’d garden with George—he in their gardens, me in mine, then his kindness drew him to help me, probably from pity. He could make a dirt pile become a terraced work of art. I’d pop a silk flower atop the pile and call it a day.

On warm summer afternoons, the three of us, which sometimes grew into eight or more, would enjoy happy hour in our back garden by the fire pit. Life couldn’t be better.

But all year round for about 10 years, George and I played chess together on Thursday nights. It is this game, the mental challenge, and his company I long for most. Unlike racquetball, whose competitiveness I quite enjoy, chess acts like fertilizer coursing through and enhancing my neurological pathways. Unlike golf when everyone’s eyes are on me, we closely watch the board, anticipating our challenger’s next move, and our own. And unlike sex, I don’t have to do it alone.
Our between-game conversations flowed with depth and humor, and our equally challenging Ping-Pong matches kept our hearts beating together. I have thanked Jeanne many times for loaning me her husband on Thursday evenings.

Concurrently and until recently, my daughter would challenge me to three games of chess a night, but as texting has become her favorite pastime, chess with her lacks appeal.

So the invitation is out: Join me for chess Thursday or Friday evenings. I might not be the best, but I’m up for a challenge, and maybe even a Scotch.

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