Undefeated

Jim 5. Ladies 2-2-1.

No, that’s not a marriage scorecard, although if it was, it would be pretty close.

Instead it is the results of last night’s pinochle marathon with Lillian, her mom, Marian, and her aunt, Junette.

It was an evening long in the planning, and the first, I hope, of many this winter. If I get invited back.

See, I am quick to acknowledge that I am the worst pinochle player in the family. It’s a function of not starting to play until late in life, and having a short attention span. The ladies are in the expert class, if there is such a classification system in pinochle. A bit about them. Aunt Junette is 90, lives alone, drives her own car, and baked a pie for us to eat after the game, which was at her house. Her little sister, Marian, Lillian’s mom, is 81, and also lives independently. Lillian is, well, younger. They’re all from Rhame, where pinochle pretty much started right after baptism at the Silbernagel sisters’ homes, so they’ve all been playing a long time. Marian spent much of her life right on the Bad Lands ranch where she was born, and raised Lillian there. Junette married a rancher just down the road and spent her years before widowhood there. She was like a “second mom” to Lillian. In the last few years, all three of them have ended up in Bismarck-Mandan, and they see each other often, and the love among them is an amazing thing to watch. And these winter card nights are giving me an opportunity to observe and share in that love.

We arrived at Junette’s at the appointed hour, 7:00. Marian was already there, impatiently shuffling cards, wondering why it was taking us so long to get our coats off. Lillian sat down beside her. I asked where I should sit (where you sit, you see, depends on who your partner will be). Lillian said I should be her mom’s partner, obviously designating Marian, at that moment, as the best player at the table, and therefore the one who should be handicapped by having me as a partner. Marian took it as a compliment, but inside that wise head of hers she was thinking “Well, that means I won’t be on the winning side tonight.”

“Cut,” was what she said, slapping the cards down in front of Lillian. No cut was needed. She had been shuffling them for 15 or 20 minutes, I’m pretty sure.

Okay, long story short. In the first hand, Marian got a double pinochle. In the second, a thousand aces. Both of those pretty much guarantee you are going to get to 150 before your opponents. We did. Marian and Jim 2, Lillian and Junette, 0. Then, without speaking a word, Marian and Junette stood up and switched places. I tried to guess what each was thinking. Marian: “Well, we got lucky. Now, with Lillian as a partner, I should win two more games.” Junette: “Oh, well, winning is not so important. We’re having fun.”

But the cards kept coming. Junette and Jim easily won the next two games. Jim 4. Marian and Junette (ahem—enjoying the benefit of being my partner) 2 each. Lillian 0. (Not that anyone, except me, was keeping score.) But then Marian stood up and indicated I should take her place, across from Lillian. I think the score in that game was something like 152 to 30, in favor of Jim and Lillian. That made it Jim 5, Junette 2, Marian 2, and Lillian 1. At which time Junette, the spryest 90-year-old I’ve ever known, literally flew from her chair to the kitchen. “Who wants cherry pie?”

It was 9:30. Game’s over. Where did the time go? That was the fastest 2 and a half hours I’ve ever known. God, winning is fun. The cherry pie was delicious. Like I said, I hope I get invited back. I’ll keep you posted.

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One Response to Undefeated

  1. Michael Kane says:

    Pinocle is one of the great card games of America… congratulations !

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