APRIL 16, 2011 5:10AM

Solitaire

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One scene that’s etched deeply in my mind is what I saw the first time I visited my parents after my father had retired. My father was playing solitaire hour after hour, day by day. Reveal a card, look at the table, place the card on the table. Reveal a card, look at the table, place the card on the table. Reveal a card, look at the table, place the card on the table. Reveal a card, look at the table, place the card on the table. Repeat.

Why? Why play solitaire when his time was his own? Who stole is life that he no longer had it?

My father was a brilliant man with many interests. We was a superb craftsman. He made my sister a play-pen for her dolls. He made if from wood, and made it so you could fold it up, just like real playpens. It was, oh, 30 to 36 inches square when opened up. The real marvel was that he’d cut the letters of the alphabet, and the numerals 0-9, into the slats on the sides. He outlined each letter on the slat. Drilled a hole inside the letter. Put the blade of a coping saw through the hole and then reattached the blade to the saw frame. Then stroke by stroke he sawed out the letter or number. When that was done he used small pieces of sandpaper to finish the edges.

Now, I didn’t actually seem him do that, or, if I did, I don’t remember it. But that’s pretty much how he would have done it. Just which coping saw he used – he had several – I don’t know.

But that’s only one of many things he built down in his workshop with more tools than he had time to use.

He collected stamps, thousands upon thousands of them. The sale of his collection (after he’d died) was a minor event in the stamp-collecting world.

He played golf, a game he loved deeply. He like music, liked to read, and was a good bridge player.

But when he had his time back, when he didn’t have to go into work five days a week, he filled these blocks of time with solitaire. Not with those other things he used to do only on evenings and weekends.

In time, over the months and, yes, years, he cut back on the solitaire. He never did much, if any, wood working; the tools in his shop lay dormant. He played more golf, spent more time with his stamp collection. And bought some records.

The solitaire never left him. Always the well-worn decks of cards. Hours and hours.

 Why?

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