The Game of Life

I’ve never been a gamer, in the current sense of the word. I’ve been around for five decades making me BC, Before Computers. My kids are gamers, some more serious than others. We’ve had a plethora of gaming systems.

My eldest son had Atari. Does anyone even remember that? It was cutting edge once upon a time. Then we had Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Game Cube, PlayStation, both console and handheld. Then, of course, came Xbox.

I admit I do own an Xbox 360; my sons gave it to me this past Christmas. I wanted its peripheral, Kinect, for its dance program. I use it as part of my workout regimen. The sensor recognizes your motions and gestures and can tell if you’re following your avatar dancing on the TV screen correctly, letting you know if you are “Flawless” or if you need work. I get my share of “Flawless,” though I definitely need work.

But, that is a total body workout that helps keep me supple and mobile. It doesn’t really work my hands and RA loves to attack your hands. A couple of months ago, I noticed that the base knuckle of my right thumb was very painful. It had swollen to twice its size. I cursed; it made me so angry. I’m right handed; I kind of need that thumb. And besides my hair, my hands are the part of me I like best.

I doubted it was my Rheumatoid Arthritis, as my left thumb was fine. With RA you get mirror images of inflammation. Twin effects, so to speak. It had to be Osteoarthritis. OA is a result of wear and tear; it happens to the best of us. After 20 plus years in the Nursing trenches, my fingers have a touch of OA. On my next visit, my rheumatologist confirmed my right thumb affliction was definitely OA.

I cursed some more. For one thing, it hurt like hell, especially in the mornings. It reminded me of the years I would cry myself awake as I worked all my stiffened, swollen and painful fingers back to life, with those very same stiffened, swollen and painful fingers. I thought I had put that pain behind me. But, at least it was only one knuckle, albeit a very essential one.

The other thing that bothered me was its appearance; it looked grotesque. I didn’t like that one bit. No old lady hands for me. Oh, no! Up with that I will not put!

One night when I couldn’t sleep, I discovered my Smart Phone has a game called BrickBreaker. It’s a cross between tennis and racquetball. You manipulate and control a small silver ball with a paddle round the “court” using the trackpad. The object is to hit and break the bricks lined up in various formations in the different levels. Each level, of course, is more intricate and difficult than the one before.

Being right handed required I use my right thumb to slide that trackpad back and forth. It hurt, but it was fun as well. I remembered what my old coach told me about playing tennis, hug center court, that way you can easily move left or right.

I was quite slow at it at first. I had to watch that little ball, anticipate where it would land so I could bounce it back up again with the paddle. It would gather speed and ricochet like crazy around the screen making me miss it by a mile. There were many “try agains” and “game overs.”

But for me, the game is never over so I kept at it. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to bust those bricks. I saw RA and OA written all over them. Take that! You evil-doers!

I got good; I’m up to level six, though I’m having trouble beating my own high score of 2,550 points. But, I will. From all that exercise, my thumb knuckle is practically back to its normal size and appearance, not much different from my left. And best of all, it hardly hurts, to move it or to look at it.

Now I mainly play the game for fun, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, when worry over my daughter keeps me awake. I get lost in the challenge of that little silver ball and revel in blowing those bricks away. Over and over again. I suppose you could say I’m a “gamer” now. But of one thing I’m sure, I have always been a player.

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