Growing up, we played lots of games, indoors and out. There were card games, sports, board games and more. In my childhood years, my dad was usually busy farming and got in on the games if it involved cards and Sunday or holiday visits.
Yahtzee was a game that came along later. At least that’s how I remember it. Some of my fondest memories with my dad in my adult years, before he died when I was 33, involved playing Yahtzee. We would often play a few games when I was home visiting. Sometimes Mom and others joined in, but you could pretty much count on Dad playing if a game was going on. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a game of rolling dice and taking chances. This is a picture of the 40th Anniversary Edition I gave my parents for Christmas a couple years before Dad died on October 23, 1998:
We got good use out of it and enjoyed this souped-up model with rolling tray included. It sits unused more in recent years, but I know right where to find it in the closet at Mom’s.
Though his formal education ended after the 8th grade, my father kept educating himself, and in the process taught his children valuable lessons. He didn’t rush into things and he didn’t put his livelihood on the line. My dad wasn’t a big risk-taker in most areas of life. Though farming is by nature risky, his approach was modest and diversified. Though his political views and choices at election time weren’t obvious, and he clearly held some liberal viewpoints, overall he was conservative in his approach, his attire, his show of emotion.
When it came to playing cards and Yahtzee, however, Dad was a high roller. He reveled in taking chances on improbable bids in card games like 500 and euchre, and he rolled the Yahtzee dice with a flair, even when unlikely to get what he needed. It’s a great place to take risks and have some fun doing it. There was never money or stakes involved when we played. It was just about the entertainment value, laughter shared, and the odds that could or could not be beaten. Dad loved it when he beat the odds. And his pleasure in playing the games taught me the importance of not just working hard, which he always did, but also playing hard.
Life is about chance. It was chance that led to discovery of blocked arteries and open heart surgery when Dad was 54. A mother sow protecting her young bit him. When the bite did not heal, tests indicated blockages. It was chance that saw his last day, at age 74, as one he would have appreciated, dying doing what he loved-farming-on the farm where he had spent much of his life. The heart attack that took him at 74 may have taken him at 54 if chance hadn’t intervened. That gave us twenty more years to enjoy his company, his dry wit, his conversational questions, and many more games of Yahtzee and Phase 10.
It was chance that Dad’s funeral was on a beautiful late October day, and that the next day as we gathered to do thank yous at our family’s kitchen table, it rained nonstop. It was very intentional on my part though, to pick something special to put in Dad’s casket before it was closed forever. I had found a Yahtzee score card he and I had both used. I wrote him a note of thanks, love, and goodbye. It was a fitting farewell.