Christmas Games with Grandpa

One Christmas I tried to teach my grandfather Dungeons and Dragons, I think I was probably 11.

‘What type of deck you use for it?’ he asked.


‘Like 52 or 48 cards?’ he said.

‘Oh there are no cards,’ I said.  ‘Just dice.’

‘Wowser, I like dice,’ he said.  ‘I have had some great runs at craps over the years.  Show me how to play.’

I got out my manual and showed him the dice.

‘What kind of dice are those,’ he said.

‘They have 20 sides,’ I replied.

He laughed heartily.  ‘I never heard of such a thing as that!’

‘We have to buy supplies before we play the game and go on the adventure,’ I said.

‘Ohh what kind of supplies?’ he asked.

I listed some of the things from the manual that adventures could buy to supply themselves with like swords and shields and jerky.

‘Oh I don’t need most of that stuff and jerky, well I don’t have teeth so I can’t have that,’ he said.

‘There are more options,’ I replied and gave him more options. ‘You gotta pick something to bring with you on the adventure.’ I got to rice pudding.

‘Rice pudding!’ he said.  ‘That is a great idea!’

‘Mary Lou,’ he yelled at my mother.  ‘Gene says to bring out the rice pudding for the adventure.’

‘I don’t have any rice pudding,’ she said.

‘Gene says there is rice pudding,’ he said.

‘It is 1 gold to buy the rice pudding,’ I said.  ‘It is imaginary rice pudding.’

‘This is a terrible game. Why tell a man there is rice pudding when there is no rice pudding.  That is just cruel.  Is this the type of cruel games that people play now a days?  I don’t want to play this game at all.’

‘Why don’t you show him how to play poker dad,’ my mother said.

‘I don’t know about this rice pudding situation.  Are you sure there is not rice pudding?’ he said.

‘Sorry dad, there is none,’ she replied.

‘I am sorry grandpa.  I thought you knew it was imaginary.’

‘Well don’t do cruel things like that anymore Gene.  Telling a man there is rice pudding when there is none is awful.

‘Show him poker dad, take your mind off rice pudding,’ my mother said.

‘Well ok I guess,’ he replied.

He got out his cards and showed me the rules of poker.  We played a couple hands and at one point I peaked at his cards.

‘If there were a real game, you would get shot in the face, you don’t cheat at poker,’ he said.

‘I am sorry Grandpa,’ I said.

‘Oh dear dad,’ my mother said.

‘If you cheat at poker there is a good chance that you will get shot in the face, that is not imaginary like rice pudding,’ he said.

‘In truth he is right Gene, when cheating at poker there is a good chance you might get shot in the face,’ my mother said seriously.

‘I am done with games today,’ my grandfather said. ‘Mary Lou can you take me downtown so I can play my numbers.’

‘Ok,’ my mother replied.  ‘Give me a minute.’

‘Maybe find some rice pudding too.’

My mother sighed.

I don’t know if Grandpa ever found that rice pudding, but I have never cheated at poker.

Christmas 2012

To know the heart of the holiday

Is to know snow

And cold

As where it is dark

The worst is yet to come

Around fires

The bold sit

Drinking beer made in summer

The taste of wheat and citrus

Upon their tongues

Warming them

They gather

As they always have

Little was known of

The man behind the rock

In the cave

In the early times


No matter who the day

Was named for

People always gathered

When the shadows grew long

The cold is the thing

The dark is the thing

The reminder that summer

Is a blessing or aberration

And even winter

A warm exception to the rule

In late December

We acknowledge

How precarious

This all is

Gene G. McLaughlin 2012

Christmas 2005


Behind the house

Across the dirt road

It is a husk of its

Past self

Seeds scattered on

The ground before it

It is cold

It will grow colder

The sunflower will sway

In the wind

Be bitten by frost

Its death not the end

Of its decay

In the dust

Snow and frost

The seeds shall take shelter

For many

Things are born

On the cusp of deep winter

We know the seeds make a promise

Yet we cannot hear the promise

Drowned out by the winters howl

We wonder if winter and the sunflower

Have a covenant

Where its decay

Is only the beginning

Of the story

Gene G. McLaughlin 2005