Lucky 13th

Cat playing pokerIt’s a special night tonight. Roughly once a decade, the full moon falls on Friday the Thirteenth. My husband’s group of friends believe in tempting — or scoffing — fate, depending on how you look at it. Because for them, every Friday the Thirteenth is Poker Night. The full moon is icing on the cake.

In twenty-five years, my husband has missed the game twice: once the night before our wedding, and once right after his kidney transplant. These days, we host. They come from six cities in three states to snack, joke, laugh uproariously, and play cards. Not just plain-old Texas Hold-Em, but a round-robin of some of the craziest poker you can imagine, with names like: “Third Man Burn” and “Dots” and “Buddha’s Folly” and “Change The Diaper.”

At some point in the evening, they speakerphone-in friends unable to make it. They do a round of toasts, to honor achievements and milestones and give sympathy for trials that have happened since the last game.

Some poker nights I take the chance to go hang with some of the girls. Tonight, I’m on my second glass of wine and am debating between working on a painting, curling up with a book, or blogging (guess which I’m doing). It’s gorgeous outside, we have all the windows open, and the scent of wood-smoke (and a hint of geef) floats over from some neighbor or other.

I listen to their jokes and ribbing, my husband’s laugh. It’s so good to hear him laugh so much these days. He has a lot to celebrate. Twenty-five years of games with good friends. Fifteen years with a healthy transplant kidney. After months of unemployment, it’s his second full week at the new job, with a medical company, where he can feel he’s making a difference in lives … something he’s needed for a long time. And today he got his final grades for the quarter at school — he’s facing down his test-anxiety and finishing his business degree — and he got four A’s.

I listen in for a bit:

“Think Mauer’s worth two mill?”
“Who dealt this mess?”
“Whoever made the meatballs, they’re awesome.”
“Crap, it’s to me.”
“Merry effin’ Christmas. I’ll raise.”
“Was that bid meant to scare Mark?”
“I could ask his wife!”
“Well, he’s only bluffed once in twenty-five years, so…”
“I’m out. Who’s left?”
“Okay guys, You don’t have anything to beat this.”
“Don, you smoked us!”
“Ouch, at least that hand didn’t cost me too much.”
“Yeah, I think Don’s kinda sad about that.”
(Raucous laughter.)


Friday the 13th or not, we’re very lucky. Despite diabetes and heavy meds and tight funds and a bipolar wife struggling out of a pit … we still have so much.

I wish I could wrap this feeling up, tie it tight, and bring it out on the dark days. Because this is the “real” that makes it all worthwhile.

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