the sky is wicked huge.
everyone roots for
On the surface, I didn’t think playing Trivial Pursuit with senior citizens at the Hale House would be rewarding. I really should know better by now than to underestimate the value of service. I also should have remembered how influential my games of cribbage with my grandfather were. What I wouldn’t give to play another game with him. There is just something about competition that dials up the intensity with a person of old age. Maybe it is the stimulation of many otherwise inactive centers of the brain that injects the youth back into their faces better than Botox ever could. I suppose that one could suggest that games of knowledge recall can make an old person feel empowered. Whatever the psychology behind it, when my project leader Katie told me how appreciative the “regulars” are to have fresh a pair of eyes to glance at across the table, any physical ail-
ments or age-related impediments were invisible to me. All I saw were friends and adversaries. I saw players of the game. Sherry and Edwin. These were the so-called regulars. They didn’t seem eager at first, but when the time came to tell us what the rules were, they had it down to a science. A very warped, and less structured science, but a science nonetheless. We essentially played collectively, trying to figure out the answers as a group. Out the gate, I felt I was at a critical disadvantage. The Trivial Pursuit edition we played with was from 1985, five years before I was born, but hope abounded when I realized it would be a collaborative effort. Hope abounded for the elderly residents as well. For once the endgame was not death or debilitating illness. It was fun, possibly accompanied by victory. The intense and guarded expression plastered on Sherry’s face began to fade and Edwin’s perpetual smile began to widen as the game went on. It was not our prowess, but our participation as volunteers that was the measure of success for the Hale House residents. They didn’t say as much, but the ease with which they spoke and the barriers of selfconsciousness seemed less restrictive. Unaware that they could not walk as they once did, or that their
years on this Earth were dwindling, they simply lived. To think I had an integral role in bestowing that gift upon them feels like glorious compensation for the soul. Edwin commanded the lead at four wedges with little time left for our hour of service, and I was handed the dice. A magical run commenced in which I started with one wedge and finished with a lead tying four. I could not surpass that number, so due to time constraints, we assembled a makeshift sudden death. Contestant picks the category, Edwin was given first dibs. Unable to answer correctly with the answer (narcissism), I had to answer what communist nation was closest to the United States for the win. And it is NOT Cuba. Soviet Union was the correct answer. I still came out a winner though, because my adversary who had matched me in brainpower that night glowed as he toothily grinned pining, “I hope you come again soon?” Mission accomplished, and evening validated. This is why we root for the underdog, because they make us feel like anything is possible. One can create the illusion of imperviousness to time. That night the lesson was reenforced for me, that it is easily done, with compassion.
25 text · Chris Peck
Published on Apr 27, 2010