Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, November 10, 2005


My parents were born in ‘38 and ‘39. They went to college in the latter half of the ‘50s. In college, to socialize, they played bridge. They still play bridge. Their bridge friends are all their age or older, or perhaps a year or two younger. The Baby Boomers, and even the War Babies, just a few years younger than my parents, don’t play bridge.

At the summer cottage my grandparents shared with us as my generation was growing up, there was a bridge game almost every day all summer long. That’s how I remember it -- maybe it was only four days a week. It would be my grandma and my mom, and maybe my grandpa (after he retired), and one or more of my grandpa’s cousins (three of them were neighbors), or another friend of my grandparents’ generation. My mom was the youngest bridge player, and the only one of her generation of cousins that played. She was the oldest of her generation.

For some reason I dug it -- I hung around the old women & learned to play, and every once in a while, eventually, they’d tolerate me to play a hand, if one of them had to step away for a few minutes. Back when I was a pre-teen. In college and after, when I came home, I always got my grandparents or one or two of grandpa’s cousins, whom I loved, and one or two of my parents, to play a couple rubbers with me. (“Rubber” -- yes, that’s the unit of competition.) I was never any good as a player, but it was a way for me to socialize with my grandparents’ generation -- these marvelous small-town Michigan Edwardians, all born in the nineteen-oughts and teens.

The last time I saw my grandpa’s cousin Honey, we were playing bridge at her sister Sally’s house and joking about cartoons we had seen in the New Yorker. It was around the time of that sensational trial of the woman who castrated her husband while he was sleeping. There was a New Yorker cartoon of 3 blind mice sitting around gabbing, and one of them says, “She cut off his WHAT?” Honey and Sally both got the New Yorker, and I had picked it up that week, and we had a grim laugh. Everyone seemed in good health and good spirits. A few months later Honey got sick and died. Grandma had recently died, Grandpa died a couple years later, and Sally a couple years after that. They’re all gone now, and I miss them.

The social connection of bridge is on my mind because this week we got horrible news about a friend of the family. Last week-end the son of one of my mom’s good, decades-long, weekly bridge friends killed himself. I didn’t know him well -- he was 7 or 8 years younger than me, a friend of my sister’s (who’s 8 years my junior). He had struggled with bipolar disorder and auditory hallucinations since his early 20s, had been hospitalized at least once. (I don’t know how many times -- once? 5 times? I don’t know.) Last week his parents knew he was in trouble and his dad flew across the country to go get him. He got there an hour and a half too late.

RIP, R.W. I grieve for your suffering and your family’s.
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