Backgammon & Life

We’re in the midst of a major renovation project at the house. We hired out a few of the trades to do the major plumbing and electricity fit-outs as well as the taping and mudding of the sheetrock after we hung it. (As a side note, getting drywall to look great is a true art!) For the most part though, we’ve been doing it ourselves, with some help from friends and family.  A week ago, we worked on the renovation and the property. It was about 8 pm when we called it quits and it was a  l o n g  day.

Larry went in and got cleaned up, as Mom would have said), while I was still pruning one of the hollies. While I was showering he made dinner, then we both sat down and just “chilled out” with a lovely meal (and a perfect martini). After dinner I asked if he wanted to play backgammon, a game I knew nothing about until I met him.

Backgammon is a game of strategy and luck (strategy if I’m winning, luck if Larry’s winning).  It’s a two-person board game with twenty-four triangles in alternating colors, in the four quadrants of the board, thirty “checkers” and two pairs of dice. The ultimate goal is to move all your pieces onto your quadrant and then get them home.

I think backgammon is a lot like life:

Backgammon- to begin play, both players roll a die; the person with the highest number goes first
Life- it seems like sometimes you roll a great number and sometimes it’s pretty darned lousy

Backgammon- it’s a mixture of luck- what you roll, and strategy- knowing what the best moves are
Life- sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time and sometimes you have to be really strategic

Backgammon- there are specific moves that are the “intelligent ones” and there are moves that are just plan dumb- I still make a bunch of the dumb ones
Life- when you think back, there are probably moves you wish you had made differently

Backgammon- if you have more than one checker on a space the other player can’t move there; if the opponent lands on a space where you have just one checker, your piece is sent back to the beginning point and has to start over again
Life- there are many times when we have to “start over”

Backgammon- it’s especially bad to have to start over when you’re on the home stretch to “safety”
Life- starting over is even tougher when you think you “have it made”

Backgammon- you have to get all your pieces in your quadrant before you can start taking any “home”; you can’t jump ahead in the process.
Life- waiting for everything to be in the right place is sometimes necessary

Backgammon- when both opponents have all their pieces in their home quadrant, it’s often a “race to the finish line”; at this point, it’s simply the position your checkers are in, and the numbers you roll, that get you home
Life- you often have to move through things in a specific way, to reach a “finish line”

Backgammon- when Larry first taught me to play, I rarely won (honestly, I only won if all of his dice rolls were awful); I had to learn to strategize: know when to protect my pieces and choose when to make a riskier move
Life- you have to learn to protect yourself, figure out when to take chances and when to play it safe
Sometimes “playing it safe” hasn’t paid off in backgammon or my real life.

Backgammon- although it’s not difficult, I still don’t know how to set up all the pieces up on the board; sometimes I forget how to get started
Life- sometimes you get confused about “where to start”

After three losses, and being up for at least eighteen hours, I quit. I simply said “this isn’t fun anymore; I have to go to sleep”. Just like in life- you have to know when to quit! You have to know when to pull back and regroup.  Sometimes you have to admit defeat and sometimes you simply have to say, “I’m going to pick up, where I left off, on another day.” Knowing when to say “enough” isn’t failing, it’s simply recognizing that you can’t always just keep on “keeping on”. Sometimes a different course (or sleep) is just what’s needed. It’s taken me a REALLY long time to even recognize when something isn’t fun anymore.

Kit Woolsey, a prominent backgammon and bridge player said, “Many, possibly most, inferior moves are made not because the best play was considered and then rejected, but because the best play was completely overlooked.” Just like in life- how many “best plays” have you overlooked? How many choices that seemed too tough, or that involved taking into consideration another person’s feelings, have you abandoned? How many times have you chosen the “inferior move”; the effortless one where you simply ran away or threw in the towel? How many times have you rolled the dice and made the quickest move possible, without considering all the options? How many times have you taken the “safe”, “easy” move?

On Saturday afternoon I went to a wonderful party. My dear friend, Denise, held a baby shower for her daughter Chantelle. The room was filled with family and friends.  It was lovely and loving. Denise’s dad, Bill, came to the party. Bill is actively dying. He is 90 years old and has both liver and pancreatic cancer, but he wanted to be at his granddaughter’s shower. I sat next to Bill for a while. Some time has passed since I last saw him. I reminded him of our last lunch, with Denise, at a small restaurant where he talked about everyday stuff and about his time in the service. When I saw him last, Bill was still a big guy- robust, full of life, full of stories. On Saturday, Bill was different; not just because of the physical signs of a body being worn down and worn out; he was tired. Bill’s voice was very quiet and that quietness gave each word a lot of weight. He talked only a bit about his cancer. He told me that he couldn’t eat much. He took a small sip of his beer. I talked about how tough it is when your mind and spirit are trapped in a body that’s challenged. He looked at me and said, “Yes, you’re right”. He asked how soon Chanie was due. I said, “I think six weeks”. Then I checked. I wanted to be sure. I told him, “Her due date is in eight weeks”. He looked at me, with eyes that were clear and blue, and said, “I’m going to try to hang on for eight weeks.” This former WWII Marine, is holding on to see his precious granddaughter bring a new life into the world. I said, “then I’ll pray for a pain-free eight weeks”. He took my hand and said, “thank you.” Before I left I said to Bill, “It was wonderful seeing you”.  He said, “God Bless You Kay”. God bless ME?  He reminded me so much of my Dad before he died fifteen years ago; a man in a fragile body, but filled with love.  I cried all the way home, not because Bill will probably soon pass over to the spirit side, but because another dear friend will live through the loss of someone she loves.

Backgammon and babies waiting to be born and cancer and death…all mixed together in a symphony called life. God Bless YOU, Bill Gruber, God Bless You.

©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living

A quiet evening with a  backgammon; a game not unlike life. ©2015

A quiet evening with a backgammon; a game not unlike life. ©2015

p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”:
#14.  Slow down; think about where you’re running to- what, who and where are we running to on the game board of life? 


3 thoughts on “Backgammon & Life

  1. Pingback: Change | PEACE FULL HOME - Intentional Living

  2. Sometimes God sends Angels, but most of the time He sends us. Thank you God for sending Kay to offer a loving and understanding heart. Continue to bless Bill on his journey home.


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