Saturday 01 Oct 2016

The Ouija Board
AJ Robinson

As a child, I had no idea what an Ouija board was. To me, it was just an old piece of wood with letters and numbers on it. It wasn't until many years later, when I was in high school, I learned of what its true use was. Yet, the Ouija board, my grandparents owned, was always in use.

It was our little card table.

As I was the last of five sons, and born quite a number of years after the others, my father's parents were quite old, by the time I came along. At the time, I didn't think anything of it; after all, they were grandparents, it was sort of a given that they should be old. Again, over time, I learned the folly of such thoughts. There had been a time when they were young and vital; they were married in the spring of 1912, and my father was born just over a year later.

That Ouija board kicked around the house from the time of his youth. I honestly don't know if it they used it for the intended purpose. I do know it saw a fair amount of use as a card table. My grandparents taught my dad how to play gin rummy using it, and then they taught all of my brothers, whenever they came to visit.

In those earlier years, grandmother and grandfather were much more active, at least. They took my older brothers to the beach, on the Flying Horses Carousel, and so on. Of course, as the saying goes, time and tide wait for no man, and my grandparents eventually grew older - their ability to be physically active diminished.

Their minds remained active.

There were still the card games, still the gin rummy and still that old Ouija board used. When I came along, and was old enough to learn the game, grandmother and grandfather were quite elderly. Yet, every time that I came to visit, I'd rush to get the board and we'd play a game on the couch. I was never very good at winning, when my grandfather played; he was good! On the other hand, I could usually beat grandmother. Of course, looking back, I have a feeling she let me win.

Of course, that blasted saying was still in effect - time truly did not wait for any man, or woman - and there came the day when they no longer played any games. They went off to a nursing home, and then - were gone.

Dad and I went to their home to begin the process of sorting through their things. Among them, I found the board. Holding it in my hands, I felt the smooth surface and edges, I scanned the old black letters - all faded and chipped - and I felt the weight of the wood. It was so light, so nondescript - so unimportant. Yet, to look at it was to see cards being dealt, to hear my grandparents' voices, and to remember happy days.

I took that old Ouija board as part of my legacy. I still have it to this day, and I taught my daughter to play cards using it. There really wasn't any need to use it; we could just have easily sat at the table. Yet, somehow, it just seemed - right.

I suppose the day will come when I'm an old grandfather, and then I can once more put the Ouija board to use when I teach my grandchildren the family game of gin rummy. As wood is just as susceptible to the ravages of time as we puny humans, I have to wonder: just how long will the Ouija board go on?

Here's hoping at least a few more generations get to have some fun with it, and tell the stories of its use from one generation to the next.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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