My mom can no longer play a card game.
My mom is a card sharp. She's one of those people who can count cards, know what you're likely to be collecting, knows fifteen different versions of rummy, and takes winning with all the serious intensity of champion chess players. She has quick hands and very dangerous fingernails. She plots the downfall of her opponents as craftily as a general planning to storm the beaches of a foreign country. She once read a book entitled Chess for Fun and Blood. My dad began to refuse to play chess with her.
Last night I invited her to play Phase Ten (for those of you who don't spend your evenings devising ways to beat the crap out of your kids, it's a rummy-like game). Each player completes simple hands: 2 sets of three, a set of 3 and a run of 4 etc. with a card in front of each listing what is needed for each phase. Mom couldn't do it.
Quite aside from the difficulty her arthritic hands had with holding her cards, she couldn't remember what phase she was on (okay, not unexpected). But more alarming was the fact that she couldn't grasp the difference between 'set' and 'run'. The card colors confused her. By the end of the game she was starting to need fewer prompts, but we were both to tired to try a second hand.
Less than two years ago she was still able to learn to play a new game. Now, she is losing her ability to play the old ones.
There is a memoir written by a local author called The House on Beartown Road. The author is simultaneously caring for her infant daughter and her declining father. It is a poignant tale observing both ends of life meeting and passing each other: Baby learning to talk, Dad forgetting how. Each noticeable loss comes with a pang of grief.
I won't ask her to play again. It's too hard on her to struggle, and too hard for me to watch.