I recently went up to the Poconos to visit my grandmother before heading out to college. She was up with Aunt Angela and their friends Theresa and Grace. I stayed over night so I got pulled into the Mah Jongg mania. My grandmother taught me how to play when I was just a kid, so I knew what I was doing – kinda…
When I sat down to play at Aunt Angela’s kitchen table, I thought they’d all be talking about this and that, you know, with all their wisdom at their age. But their talk is always about the game they’re playing. Once you’re in the Mah Jongg world, that’s all there is. You come in and want to talk about something else – you’re an outcast. At one point Theresa mentioned she wanted to zip line across the Safari some day, and nobody wanted to hear about it. They’re so engaged in the game itself – who’s taking the other person’s hand, who’s the big winner, who lost 15 cents (not a bad hand), or 45 cents for the night (not a bad night). The 2 girls, Ang and my grandma Millie, are the big winners almost always. I heard my grandmother has enough money in her Mah Jongg fund to play for the rest of her life.
The girls play from 2, 3 in the afternoon until midnight. Grandma’s always the first to go to bed, and almost always the winner of the night. She wins because she’s very good at what she does – I’ve always seen her that way too. She’s engaged, practical, and efficient at whatever she takes on. With Mah Jongg, she knows the card like the back of her hand, and thinks ahead of how she’s going to handle each hand she’s dealt. And she can read your hand too – she’ll withhold tiles to stop others from making their hand. She plays self-defensively, does the best she can do, and then moves on to the next hand.
Grandma has always been about moving on. Like a couple years ago, when my cousin, her grandson Chris, was in a plane crash. He was co-piloting the plane but walked away unscathed. Grandma found out he was okay, said her prayers, and then barely mentioned it again. She says her hour of prayers every morning and then faces whatever the day brings her.
My grandmother’s not a dweller – she’s about the present and the future. That’s how I am too. The past is in the past. For us, it’s all about moving on. What’s the hand we need to deal with next?