Family Gifts: The River and Cards

Ever since I can remember my family has combatted boredom in two ways:
1.) Go to the river
2.) Play cards

My personal favorite is to play cards at the river. This does not literally have to be on the banks of the river, although when camping that’s fun too.

My family has a great little piece of heaven where the Devils River meets Lake Amistad. Cold or hot, wet or dry, day or night, winter or summer, the beauty of the surrounding land abounds. You must look for it. The beauty is not always obvious as cactus spines are ready to stick you like needles or mesquite thorns ready to stab you right through the sole of your shoe. Unforgiving and rough, it is one of my favorite places to be.

I think back to the many hands of cards that have been played around my grandmother’s table with my family. I wish I could remember the last hand I played with my sweet mom as it is unlikely that she will return to the cabin by the river.

The river has always been central to who we are and what we represent. We step into our time together generally free from television, phones or computers electing instead to find projects, needed work to be done, or cards.

The river and playing cards – that’s who we are. The stories come to the table like salsa smothered cream cheese, guacamole, Grandmother’s cheese logs, or any variation of snack that can be created with limited supplies. You see, the goal is to go to the river prepared for a minimum of a five-day stay. That means going to town is only allowable if necessity warrants. It is rare that boredom warrants a trip to town. That is what 16-year-olds are made of, and they should be taken to the water instead, perhaps by boat, kayak, foot, or car; it matters not.

Those with no interest in leaving the cabin either play cards during the heat of the day, go to the water, read a book, work a puzzle, or sleep. These are not set activities – just the easiest ones to execute with all effort saved for meaningful projects such as re-doing a deck, a roof, or clearing cactus and brush.

Once the sun begins to follow the evening decent there is a mad rush to the deck that faces the West. The sunsets are always different and yet always the same. The peace is an unwavering promise that can be revisited at any time with little concentration, an unwavering promise of the longing for the things that cannot be reached that ironically brings a kind of calm that can only be understood through loss.

As my family rapidly approaches the loss of my mother, I cannot help but think of how my family guided the loss of my father. Some of us retreated into the abyss while others of us continued a steady path into each moment. I teeter-totter between both responses depending on the day or the moment.

My best response to our situation is to go the river or to find a card player. Those are my **only ** two desired responses despite being told what to do and how to feel. If the river and cards cannot relieve my sadness then I do not want relief. I want to feel each tinge and pinch of pain. That does not make me weird or masochistic; it makes me real. And I pride myself on being real.

Tonight the river yielded beauty, friendship, love, and the light of the moon – all of which deserve individual explanations. When I feel weak the river gives me strength. Just knowing the water is a few steps from my back door is usually enough to give me courage in knowing that everything changes as the river flows to the sea. But lately I have needed to be by its shores more than usual.

While I am there I contemplate all the amazing gifts that my family has given to me. My father gave me the love of the river and my mother the love of cards. Add in a little fire, stars, cold beer, and music and you’d think I’d found heaven.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Ledbetter says:

    Love! Thinking of you and missing you, Arlis.

    1. sugarcaves says:

      Congrats on the new baby! Miss you too! ❤️❣❤️

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