Just crossing that bridge when I come to it

Jun. 20, 2013 @ 10:44 AM

Not that I’m elderly or anything, but being fifty-none-of-your-business years old, I sometimes have a teensy problem remembering things. Not the big things -- I don’t forget to eat, sleep, get dressed or buy hair products. But, the little things -- returning a call, getting all the groceries on one trip, putting stamps on letters, making a dentist appointment ... although, that last one may be more of a subconscious pain/panic/denial -- the little things are getting to me.

I forget names, places, dates, plans, and how to get the !$#@% DVR to record “Cake Boss.” And, when I do record “Cake Boss,” I usually want to make one of the cakes he’s baking, so (and I must do this immediately, or all thought of cakes will be replaced with something like why I can’t find a good pair of shoelaces) I put the ingredients on my grocery list -- which remains magnetized to the refrigerator as I wander aimlessly through the aisles at Food Lion. 
Therefore, to combat creeping obliviousness, I decided to learn to play Bridge, and went looking for someone to teach me. After a long and somewhat perplexing hunt (from some of the looks I was given, it was like I’d suggested naked sky-diving) two friends, John and Ralph, have accepted the challenge. They are both men, which is also perplexing. 
Women, in my experience, are normally much more patient as teachers of any kind because most women, I believe, can relate to the female learning curve, whereas men who teach women notoriously begin yelling, cussing, and in some cases throwing things, quite early in the teaching process.  Like when a man figures he can berate you into learning how to drive a stick shift! ... (ahem) ... anyway ...
So, I suspected I might need earplugs, thick skin, and possibly a helmet. But, playing Bridge is like going down the rabbit hole with Alice, where everything is backward: your regular, normal guy seems to have the patience of a saint, whereas your regular, normal woman turns into something sort of Frankenstein...ish. Including my mother. I tried to practice with her over Memorial Day, and after 15 minutes, it was clear she thought she’d given birth to Forrest-ella Gump.
John and Ralph have been patient and methodical as they’ve taken me (and Carol, a friend I talked into joining us ... well, talked, bribed... potato, potahto) through the beginner steps of Bridge. They’ve answered our endless questions, sometimes the same one two or three -- or 11 -- times, and still haven’t lost their senses of humor. I know this because every time I bid something completely incomprehensible, or play a card with the shrewd judgment of a monkey on crack, they just laugh. Ha ha, they say, you’re just learning. You’ll get better!
(John is beginning to laugh just a tad more desperately, though, come to think of it, and Ralph has become quieter each week ... almost stoic ... almost as if he had a fifth of  bourbon stashed under the table, which would explain his repeatedly ‘tying’ and ‘untying’ his shoes...)
Anyway, we’re coming along quite nicely, I think, and I feel like such a grown-up. My parents played Bridge with three other couples every week while I was growing up, and I remember vowing to do the same when I was old ... uh ... older. I thought it was so cool. They had two tables and took different partners, and they all smoked and ate peanuts and drank martinis, and I’d repeatedly sneak down the hall to watch them, until one of my parents saw me and yelled at me to get back to bed or ‘God Himself’ couldn’t protect me It was a magical time.
My favorite part about playing Bridge is being the Dummy. A word that normally makes your lower lip tremble is, in Bridge, an actual blessing. It means that your partner won the bid and must play the whole hand himself, and you get to ‘lay your cards on the table’ and he uses your cards as well as his to play the hand, and all you have to do is sit there and watch. You may have no idea why he’s doing what he’s doing ... not that I have any trouble with that ... but you get to revel in every trick he wins, while basking in the glow of not being responsible if he screws up. I love that.
And, I love being able to toss off phrases like “no trump,” ‘longest and strongest,” “major and minor,” “transportation” and “that’s my trick, you *@%$#!.”
There are many, many ... many ... things I still haven’t learned about Bridge, and possibly never will, but hey, I can play a simple, straightforward hand if I have to, with minimal choking and sobbing now ... and not just from John and Ralph. So ... anybody wanna play?

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com