I played again today. It’s been over 4 years. Some things, some things are just harder than others to pick back up again. Some things are harder to start again with someone that’s not the same someone. But it was time. So I bought a board, the closest I could get to looking just like the one I learned on (I did damn good).
And I taught Charlie.
I taught Charlie the game we loved to play most. He got frustrated. He cheated. A lot. I got frustrated. He told me I cheated. We got frustrated. We kept playing. And it was just like I was sitting there 25 years ago, when Papa taught me.
We’d spend hours playing Chinese Checkers, he in the chair, me on the floor, with the board placed on the rolling foot stool between us. Which was basically just hours of endless defeat for me. He was never easy on me and he never let me win. What he did, was he taught me how to learn. I had to play to learn, I had to try to learn, and I had to be willing to be defeated. Over and over and over again. Because he was damn good.
And one day, many years later. Many defeats past. I won.
In my small little heart, beating Papa was when I knew I had arrived. Strike up the band, get my crown, the queen has taken the throne.
And for Papa, that was a proud moment. I can still see the smile on his face. He taught me to learn. He taught me to lose gracefully. He taught me to learn some more. And with that he taught me to win.
As I was teaching Charlie, he asked several times with hope, “am I winning?”
“No bud. But you’re not going to win. You’re learning. I’m teaching you how to play and you’re going to lose a lot first. But you’re just learning. The day you beat me, that’s when you know you’re good. I’m the “Papa” you now have to beat.”
In your little life, it’s my responsibility to teach you how to lose, in all of the ways Papa taught me. And how to lose often. Because you will lose often.
You can’t cheat your way across the board. You can’t double jump your marble without following the lines. And you can’t move the marble at the top of the pyramid straight to the bottom row.
What you are to young to realize and what I was to young to realize then, is that while we are being defeated, while we are learning how to lose with dignity and grace, we are learning how to win with respect. Through all of those endless games of defeat, we are winning.
I didn’t win all those years ago because he let me. I didn’t win because I cheated. I won, because I took the time to learn how. And when I could’ve accepted my defeat and quit. I kept learning. Because I wanted to win and I wanted to earn it.
I never thought that one day, I would be sitting at the counter trying to teach a child, much like myself, a game passed down by family tradition, when those memories would flood back in. I never thought that one day, I would be the “Papa” to beat.
So I played again today. With a new someone. A someone who needs me to teach him all of the somethings Papa taught me. And while I teach him to lose, he’s learning the valuable lesson, of how to earn that win and the respect that goes with it.