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I really wasn’t interested in committing to a gin rummy game every Monday night when my older cousin Harv told me that he had included me and I had better join. Fearing the “had better,” I entered the card club. That was 10 years ago. Starting with about 12 guys, over the years we grew to 17. For the most part we’re comrades in arms – er, hands.

The evening includes laughter, friendliness, teasing, off-color humor, a little foul language (for which I may be the worst offender), discussion of the latest good book and occasionally the mention of an investment that will make us all wealthy. Once in a while politics is whispered, but not often since we are fairly respectful of political sensitivities and would prefer not to start World War III in one of our living rooms.

We play for 25 cents a hand and there have been weeks when I’ve lost as much as $2.50. That’s a bad night but at least I haven’t, yet, lost $3. It’s amazing to me how serious octogenarians can get over 25 cents. One of us needs an anti-depressant every time he loses a hand. You’d be amazed at the satisfied look on our faces when there’s a few more quarters in our pockets going home than when we arrived. Of course, I’m much more nonchalant!

Divided into two teams, red and black, matching the colored cards, the team with that hand’s losing point total must move to its left in order to play the next fellow. Over the years, moving has been more of a chore since our backsides won’t shift quickly. So, where once we got in three full games, we’re now relegated to no more than two. In addition, when we have an odd number of players, one must sit out. That fellow is the one who, previously, lost the most number of points in his hand. Does anyone know what it’s like to get old people to remember their last hand? Oh, the chaos! That’s another reason we’re down to two games.

Except for me, of course, everyone in the group has idiosyncrasies or peculiarities distinctive of the aged, which are sources of humor. Nate will often overlook that he is holding “gin” in his hand, and sometimes discards gin in order to knock. That is an unforgiving sin to his horrified teammates.

Howie, always, disdains knocking. He may hold an ace forever, waiting for gin or to under-knock his opponent. Talk about the cat eating the canary! The satisfied look on his face is priceless. A few of the guys are hard of hearing. That’s great. It makes them so easy to criticize and call choice names. Some guys won’t drink diet soda, while others will drink it exclusively. One of them drinking only the sugared product is a diabetic, truly! Frequently, we’ll play with old, sticky cards. I know we’re all on Social Security, but what does it cost for a new deck?

Recently, we’ve talked about how cumbersome it is having 17 in the group, but not wanting to lose anyone. Yet the other day, we did, losing Phil to bladder cancer. He and his wife, Lee, and all of us were anticipating his upcoming 90th birthday. It was not to be.

Yes, we even had laughs at Phil’s expense. But camaraderie and friendship have been the hallmark of our group, like many other groups. Often we play doctor, dentist, stockbroker and analyst to each other. Perhaps we kvetch a bit less or chuckle a bit more. But doubtless, it’s the prescription that extends our lives by … who knows?