For me and my sister, Scrabble was more than just a board game…
“Double letter score,” I said, snapping the ivory Scrabble tiles into place on the game board. My sister-in-law Nancy shook her head with a small smile.
“You know, this game always reminds me of…” I trailed off.
I pretended to concentrate on marking down my points, just so Nancy wouldn’t notice the tears that’d sprung to my eyes. I should’ve been happy about my score, but I couldn’t help but think about the last time I’d played Scrabble, nearly a year ago. Just before my sister Gail died.
Scrabble had always been our thing. I don’t know who first suggested it or where the board even came from. But it quickly became a Saturday afternoon tradition. I’d make a big bowl of popcorn, while Gail set up the game on the kitchen table. The board was so worn out that the center seam was ripping apart. I won most of the time, though Gail liked to say that it was only because I’d cheated.
When Gail was diagnosed with lung and small cell cancer, Scrabble became more than a game. It was the last bit of normalcy in a world of endless doctor appointments and blood count reports. I brought it along to her first chemo appointment and we sat for hours, squabbling over points and made-up words, while the nurses checked in periodically – both on Gail and the game!
“Shouldn’t I get extra points?” Gail joked, glancing down at her IV bag. “Kinda like a chemo bonus?”
The last game we played had been at her home a month before she passed away. We’d both choked up when I spelled out J-O-Y. There was no better word to describe all she’d been to me.
Now, it felt like a part of me was missing. What would I do without my big sister by my side?
While Nancy contemplated her next move on the board, I arranged the tiles remaining on my rack – T, I, Y, G. Not much I could do with that. I reached into the velvet bag of letters, moving around the cool squares of plastic until my hand found three tiles.
I lined them up on my rack, ready to come up with my next word. I didn’t have to think about it for long. The last four letters spelled out one word perfectly—a word that meant more to me than all the double letter and triple word scores in the world.
I won the game that Saturday afternoon. But not on my own. As it turns out, I wasn’t playing alone.