Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Is A Game Of Chess

Chess is a game of patience and when the boy (Isaac) asked me to teach him how to play I was proud.  Mind you, I'm not any good at it, but I think it's a really cool game.  I remember when I learned to play, it was one of the few things somebody ever sat down to teach me.  He was a really nice guy, an older gentlemen, a great friend of my mothers named Jack.  He also taught me how to shoot a b.b. gun and would sit and talk to me about a lot of things.  We would talk about God and as I got older, conspiracy theories and what have you.  He was probably the only father like figure I ever had in my life.  I wasn't even related to him and the man would do anything for me. 

Jack was a retired electrician who liked to buy and sell at flea markets to make some extra cash.  I never told him but I think he just liked collecting junk.  He would sometimes take me with him and teach me how to wheel and deal, those were great times.  As I got older, and got into more serious trouble, he would try to talk some sense into me but he never would judge.  He had always given me the respect and attention a kid deserves.  I think I was 18 when he got pneumonia, and because he was a heavy smoker he had major complications.  I would go up to the hospital and bring him a Dunkin Donuts coffee and do anything else he needed.  He took a turn for the worse and I think he even flat lined once.  Somehow he pulled through and a few weeks later he went home. 

I went over there daily because he couldn't walk to use the bathroom or to get something to eat or drink.  I emptied his bed pan for him multiple times a day and I could see the appreciation in his eyes.  He didn't have to say a word.  He did, however, tell me that dumping his shit in the toilet was probably the last lesson he was going to teach me.  And it was, in a direct sense anyway.  I can still learn things by looking back.  He was teaching me about humility and how valuable it was.  Telling him no, I wouldn't do it, wasn't even a thought.  After all he had done for me it was the least I could do.

It wasn't too much longer before I left for basic training and I didn't get a chance to see him before I left, but I did talk to him.  He told me he was proud of me and I knew he meant it.  About 4 weeks in to basic training I called my sister and she told me Jack had died, but my mother didn't want to tell me.  I was angry with myself for not making the time to see him once before I left.  But I was grateful his suffering was over.  My thoughts about his life and what he taught me pushed me even harder to get through this tough time.  And I did.

I'm kind of ashamed of myself.  I haven't thought about Jack in a very long time.  This story was going to be about the boy and I playing chess until it dawned on me how I learned, and then it took a completely different turn, and this is what we have.  In a way I feel like I'm honoring him by taking the time to teach my son what Jack taught me because my father never would.  I think this is the best way I could repay him. 

With that, my tears want to flow, but not now.  I'll make time for it later.


  1. Sounds as if Jack left a lasting imprint on you. And it's cool about the humility lesson - we all need it. You have a kind heart my friend.

  2. Powerful story. You certainly have a lot of love to give. I am sure he would be proud that you're honoring his memory by passing on his knowledge .

  3. so your writing is a little like this improv of life. you start out with a certain intention, but end up following some crazy back road. hindsight is 20/20, ain't that a bitch.

    You probably had an enormous impact on his life, and dont even realize it.

  4. Beautiful piece, Ryan. You're also honoring Jack by writing and sharing about him. I believe that those that have touched our lives and have passed, live on in us in some way.

  5. Thanks, I appreciate y'all reading.

  6. This reminds me of how nothing ever gets better. You try to change the course of history but it only ends up repeating itself. No?

    / Avy

  7. " In a way I feel like I'm honoring him by taking the time to teach my son what Jack taught me because my father never would."

    not just the chess, i presume.