Sorry, Rook, Scrabble and the Bible

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2019

There are many faults I possess which I admit are my fault. I talk too much. I overdo and underthink most of the time. I don’t clean under the sofa often and don’t turn off lights as I should. There are many more flaws, but the editors only give me so much room in this paper. 

However, two of my shortcomings are not my fault. I inherited them from my ancestors. If our DNA were tediously sifted through, scientists would find a lineage of stubbornness and competitiveness, which is stronger than any physical trait yet seen in laboratory testing. 

My great grandmother, Mollie Sparks, was known to be the most willful woman born in the hills of Tennessee. She could put her foot down like no one else. If an earthquake shook the world, her size four shoe was not moving off the ground. 

My father and I would snicker when my mother would declare, “Grandmother Sparks was the most stubborn woman I ever knew!”

We laughed because mama was exactly like her grandmother, except she wore a size eight shoe. Mama also exhibited an added dose of competitiveness, which she inherited from Mollie’s daughter, my grandmother, whom we called Grandpa.  

There are many competitive and gifted famous folks in the academic and sports worlds. International Academic Members and Hall of Famers would squirm in their competing seats if they faced the lady known as Grandpa.  

She was a skilled Scrabble player, but at some point in time, she either threw away the rules or lost them. We all learned to play Scrabble by Grandpa’s Rules. It never occurred to any of us that there was another way to play. And, Lord knows, you wouldn’t want to tell Miss Also Stubborn Grandpa, there was an alternate rulebook, or she might throw her size seven shoe toward you!

I was on a trip not long ago with three friends, and upon finding a Scrabble board in the house we rented, we decided to sit down for a friendly game.

After a few minutes, Michele asked, “ What kind of Scrabble are you playing, Lynn? This is sure different from how I once played!” 

“Well, the only way to play Scrabble is to use Grandpa’s rules!” I responded. 

I am not sure how I convinced three others to play the same way, but I did. I think you see the stubborn gene didn’t fall far from the ancestral tree, right?

Whether we played Scrabble, Rook or Sorry with Grandpa, she played with a fierceness that would make Tiger Woods weary. She could out fish anyone, outsmart most of us and not forfeit a game to a beloved five-year-old just to be nice. No, she was going to teach us those who win, win fair and square. 

We all learned by her competitive nature to be up for a challenge. Mama became a champion golfer after playing for only three years. She also could trump anyone in a Bridge game, but likely would not beat Grandpa at Rook. I couldn’t match the abilities of either one, but I did learn a far more valuable lesson by observing these priceless women.

Watching their skill, their determination, their stubborn and competitive nature propelled me to believe I could achieve almost anything if I put my size six shoe down.

 All who know me, understand I am stubborn and competitive. I once apologized for these characteristics, but now, I simply say, “It’s not my fault!”

However, I am filled with gratitude for these exceptional women who believed they could accomplish anything through hard work. 

They never once assumed they couldn’t handle a problem, couldn’t achieve a goal or not win a game.

Every night, after Grandpa had caught all the fish for the day, hoed in her garden, cooked everyone’s three square meals, and after she beat us all in a final Rook game, she sat alone to read her Bible before going to bed.

“Grandpa, how many times have you read the entire good book? I asked her once I was grown.

“Well shoot, I reckon, dozens.” She declared without any fanfare.

“What have you learned?” I questioned.

“Well, I reckon I learned how to live. I learned I could handle any ole’ problem, I could achieve almost anything I set my mind to, and I would win if I only believed. My mama taught me the Bible held all the answers, so I just keep on looking for ‘um.” 

Sometimes the answers to the questions on how to play the game of life, are not so far away. They have been given to us by those who walked in extraordinary shoes before us, and the book that showed us how to play by the rules.