I bought it around 1992 from a game room store in Bergen County, N.J. for about $450.
Now, just about every Tuesday night for the last 27 years, I roll it out of its storage spot, an 8-person card table, wobbly legs and all. Soon, around 8 p.m. and always on time, a group of aging men in their 50s and 60s show up, some the same people from the 1990s, others more recent additions. They come to play poker at my house—as they have done for nearly three decades—one of the few consistencies in a life that has shockingly become filled with many inconsistencies over the last five years.
Just two weeks after my wife passed away in October, 2014, I mentioned to my then 17-year old son that I would not play or host the card game for the foreseeable future. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well what are you going to do then, just stare at me?”
Right then and there, I knew that my two sons (the older one had just gone back to college to try to finish his first semester of his sophomore year but I knew he felt the same way) very much wanted me to move forward with my life. That they would never expect me to wallow in my own pity or sorrow. No, they wanted me to move ahead, though they also wanted me to remember the past.
So that card table and those four hours every week have come to represent the state of my life. Tuesday nights at my house is filled with gossip, idle chatter, political commentary and the status of our favorite sports teams. Surprisingly, the beverages of choice are either seltzer or water and the snacks have morphed from candy and potato chips to a little healthier variety that now often includes grapes and bananas.
Needless to say, it is also filled with playing poker, mind you not for huge stakes but for enough to make us pay as much attention to the game as all the other things that might be simultaneously going on.
Of course, it also means so much more. Widowed for four-plus years and an empty nester at this point for nearly eight months a year as my younger son weaves his way through college, the card game allows for my home to be filled with voices and commentary at least one day a week. It allows for me to wax nostalgic as well, to return to the days when my home was a focal point for many kids and adults over the years.
A long time ago, suddenly, I came to understand that time marches on and change is inevitable. But that damn card table and that Tuesday card game remain a constant, a beacon of light every week that I will find hard to ever give up. Along with my tennis games in the area, the card game is what keeps me in my community for now and what will probably prevent me from venturing too far away when I finally do decide to move on.
It’s funny what a silly little game can do.
Seth Mendelson is the father of two sons, 24 and 21, and lives in Montville, N.J. He is an award-winning journalist covering business, politics and sports and has been published in such publications as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in addition to his full-time job.