Monopoly, Chess, and Driving Stick


My dad pushed away from the chess game, rose and left the room, leaving his friend Larry to find his own way out of our house.

My dad was a tough guy from whom to learn board games. As soon as he saw I had a basic grasp of the rules, it was trial by fire. He was ruthless. Calm, quiet, polite, but ruthless. Granted, I was already a genius when I took up Monopoly at age 7, but Dad was a 38-year-old super genius, and he held nothing back. I was sure he cheated (“I don’t cheat.”). I was sure he manipulated the rules, so I committed all eight pages to memory.

It was the same way years later when it was time to learn to drive. The first time I ever put a car in motion, my dad pulled the stick-shift hatchback out into the middle of the street, traded seats with me and said “Go ahead.”

Crazy? Yes, but I must say I was driving stick within an hour, a skill that has served me all my life. And I grew to be a formidable Monopoly player in my own right. (A couple of years ago, on New Year’s Eve I challenged ten people to play me in three simultaneous Monopoly games. I won one, drew in a second, and got pounded in the third.) (It was a blast.)

Chess, though, I never got into. When we were little, my sister and I used to play chess using Checkers rules. (?) Then my dad tried to teach me chess using his “Now I see you are ready for THIS!” technique. I had no idea what was going on. I knew the rules, but the game was too open ended for me, and I could never formulate a strategy. With my dad just creaming me over and over, with little feedback or encouragement, I quickly became discouraged and gave up on the game.

But even my super genius dad had his limitations. He agreed to mentor his friend Larry in chess. Larry came over a couple of times a week for months. They played intense, silent games in the living room, on the set my mother carved. And what do you know? Larry was a good student, and soon Dad wasn’t winning every game.

One day, he found himself cornered. He surveyed the board, considered his options, pushed away from the table and announced “Enough!” He walked away and they never played chess again.chess1

Larry told that story at my dad’s memorial service. I think life was a little too open ended for my dad. He knew the rules and usually played by them, but he solicited little input, and without feedback or encouragement, I think he found it hard to formulate a winning strategy. When his life came to an end, which occurred on a day of his own choosing, he found himself cornered, reviewed his options, pushed away from the table, announced “Enough!” and left the game.


2 thoughts on “Monopoly, Chess, and Driving Stick

  1. Pingback: In A Shady Italian Orchard | A Wonder Of Feeling

  2. Pingback: Double-Sided-Sticky Tape: Humiliations Galore | A Wonder Of Feeling

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