I remember this.
My father is hardly a florid or theatrical man, but has a way of making explanations seem monumental and deconstructing abstractions, like love or racism, into black and white grids of logic. After his military career, I hoped Daddy might become an educator. I could imagine him as the unyielding middle school teacher pushing unsuspecting underachievers to unexpected personal heights. Or the college professor with "sold out" course sections every semester. Sadly, he wasn't the least bit interested in classrooms or lecture halls (he also has an exhausted tolerance for insolence and bureaucracy). Luckily for my sister, my daughters and me, classes at the Card Academy are in full swing.
The girls are 11 and 12 years old, sixth and seventh grade, respectively. My sister and I were around the same ages when we learned how to play Dirty Hearts, Gin Rummy and Spades. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing board games and cards then, since that was also the age we spent a lot of time being alternately grounded. On those week long stints of no TV, radio, outside or friends, the "free" sister would honor an unspoken truce of sibling solidarity and keep the other company for a spell. Even on good days, we played games and cards. When I was heading off to college, my father declared it was time to learn the game Bid Whist, warning that I would not be permitted to accept my diploma if I hadn't mastered the game by graduation.
Our practice rounds go horribly at first, but the girls start to get the hang of the game. Even if they don't become lifelong players, I am so grateful that they've had this early moment with my father. They can never know their "Poppy" the same way we know him as "Daddy," but when he speaks, he imparts so much of himself: intelligence, humor, wisdom, patience and discipline. My father is merely giving them to instructions for a card game but it sounds like a love song to me.