Some time ago, I was working on my parents’ memoir. I was reminded of something my grandmother told my father, when he was a boy. She comforted him one night, when he was afraid of the dark, by assuring him that he would never be alone; she would always be at his side. I had always thought that those words would apply in a one-way direction: parent to child. Yet, recently, I found it going the other way.
Since my daughter was young, we shared many things: Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Harry Potter and the Nancy Drew computer games, to name only a few. She read some of the Nancy Drew books, but I could never get into them. I didn’t even care for the Hardy Boys; it was The Three Investigators for me. I think I liked their tie-in with Alfred Hitchcock; he appeared in many of the early books, but I digress.
With each new Nancy Drew game, we installed it and played it. We didn’t stop until we’d solved the mystery. Time rolled along, and she got better and smarter at solving the puzzles and riddles of each game. I kept notes, and offered advice. Over time, less and less was there any need for my input. Finally came the day I knew we would reach – the day she went off to college. Yet, we were still able to play the games. She came home for Christmas, Easter, summer vacation and I always had the new game ready.
A child doesn’t stay a child, forever. There comes a time when she moves on to her own life, even more than merely attending college. She develops her own relationships, her own groups and events to attend, and her own places to go. Those home visits became fewer and fewer, and shorter and shorter. I bought the most recent Nancy Drew game for her, but we never found the time to play, together. Instead, I sat alone at my computer, and played it myself. I thought sure I would be saddened and depressed while doing it.
I wasn’t. It was strange. As I sat there, interviewing suspects, solving riddles and unraveling puzzles. I felt not quite as alone as I thought I would. At each turn in the game, as I solved each difficult challenge, I could almost hear her voice in my ear, encouraging me on. When I interviewed a suspect, I thought of the funny questions and answers we used to improvise. When I solved a particularly tough puzzle, I remembered how much satisfaction we felt, when we did the same.
That does tend to ease the pain of separation. I’ll keep an eye out for the next Nancy Drew mystery game. Although there’s little chance of us ever again playing the game together, it’ll still make me happy – just playing it by myself.
Who knows, maybe there will come a day when I’ll have a granddaughter and, once again, I’ll have someone to share this special time with. We can start at game one, and go right on through the series. After all, by then, I’ll have forgotten all the puzzles.
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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