regret is insight that comes a day too late
Thanks to the fishes at Full Tilt, I was able to buy two tickets to the Father’s Day Astros game for my dad and I. Despite the dismal performance from the home team, we had a great time, helped by the fact that I had unknowingly purchased Club Level seats in right field. Things like club levels go a long way towards getting me over the abandonment of the Astrodome. (To be fair, it is a beautiful stadium, and it’s growing on me).
Saturday night after putting mom and dad to bed, I retreated upstairs to my room, and, for a reason I 24 hours later cannot recall, stepped in to the room right next to mine. My earliest memory of this room was that it was where my young Spanish-speaking nanny stayed, then where my grandmother moved in and lived with us for many years, passing away when I was in eighth grade. Then it became a study for sorts for me, a room where I painted the walls dusty rose and the trim hunter green, and hung out with my friends until I graduated high school and took off for Austin. My father has since claimed it as his own study, and was thrilled to finally be able to get rid of that damn pink. It now holds his desk, a couple of chairs, and appears to be doing double-duty as a staging area for the multiple art prints he has collected over the years.
The room spooks me now. There is no real reason for this, of course. I’m not sure if it’s because of the memories I have of times in it…memories that are now gone, with nothing left behind. The desk is not my desk, the walls are now white, the couch where I had my first kiss now recovered and unrecognizable. Sitting in the room it all feels unfamilar and formal.
My grandmother is in that room, and I mean that in every sense of the phrase. Her ashes are in the closet, my mother unable to decide on anything suitable to do with them; unsure as to her mother’s real wishes and (I think) a little unwilling to fully let go. I look in the room and can picture it years ago, me sitting on the foot of her bed, the two of us staying up till late at night, watching Johnny Carson, playing Yahtzee, Scrabble, and poker. We played every weekend night, stopping when I reached the age where having two mothers in the house with a father on the road during the week proved to be too much for me, and I turned in to a typical pre-teen brat.
I remember spending nights in her little apartment next to the Astrodome, catching the Astroworld fireworks show from her balcony and falling asleep to the sounds of game-day traffic snaking by. Later I remember coming home to find her on the couch, glued to the TV watching what was then the longest baseball game ever. I remember interrupting the game by laying my head on her lap, telling her about the stupid thing some stupid boy had done at school. I remember her saying she had a headache, I remember countless nights sleeping in the ICU waiting room, I remember my parents walking up the driveway and my mother looking so very sad. I remember nights where I didn’t tell her I loved her, nights where I didn’t listen, days where I likely qualified for worst grandchild ever. I remember calling my mother at work, sobbing that I couldn’t go to school that day because I had nothing to wear…angry and sad at the same time, without really knowing why.
I don’t recall having played Yahtzee since…Scrabble a few times, and poker…well, I can’t say my picking it up again ever really surprised me. Early on I identified the connection, and I think the tie-in to her was a large part of the reason I continued to play. It was a way for me to identify with her – this woman who was such a big part of my life, the only grandparent I knew, the source of so many regrets.
My mother disagrees with me the extent to which my grandmother was a gambler. Just yesterday she remarked how my grandmother might have played poker with me, but she never actually gambled on anything. After all, with no casinos in Texas, where would she have done it? I knew better though…in the way that you just do.
Saturday night, as I went through a box full of letters, school girl notes, and random clippings, I came upon a piece of paper, the image of which I have always carried in my mind, unaware that its physical form still existed. The sight of it caused 29 year old me to break down, so regretful for the actions of the punk kid she was.
While my memory has always focused on the stud games we played, it would appear that jacks or better was a big part of our game.
Digging further through the box, reading notes and other bits of proof that I was a bit terrible to more than just family members, I came across a postcard that confirmed what I’d always known in my heart.
A day at the track and a weekend in Atlantic City? It would appear we have far more in common than I thought, though it’s clear I didn’t learn about +EV at home.
If I could do it all over again, I’d have never quit our weekly poker game, I’d have sat next to her as she watched every Astros game, I’d have made sure she always knew I loved her. Finding these little treasures make me sad for not having appreciated her when I had her, but happy that in some small way, she is always with me. My mother shakes her head, wondering why, of all things in the world, it’s gambling that ties her daughter to her mother. Still, it brings her a bit of comfort to know that a connection was made, and remains strong. It does to me too.