“Wait. You’re playing against each other, aren’t you?” the nurse commented while adjusting my father-in-law’s IV bag. My husband and I sat on opposite sides of the bed and sheepishly nodded. “Well, that is just too cute,” she said, leaning over to see Robert’s iPad display. “A husband and wife playing games together. How sweet.”

Oh, please. Sweet? I don’t think so. It’s how we roll. With such complicated schedules these days, Words with Friends has become our only means of escape and communication. We are so addicted that what is abnormal for most is normal for us. We race through dinner together so we can spend our quality time apart…competing in opposite ends of the house. Moreover, it’s how we talk. The game includes a chat feature, which allows us to make comments about our day or plans for the next. It’s become so routine that sometimes I have to page through finished games to see if it’s my turn to pick up the dry cleaning.

It took a game where you create words to get Robert’s attention to read any. Before the iPad was invented, I used to rely on the old timey LPads…legal pads…to leave him a note. Since the number of characters was not limited, I could easily put an entire grocery list on one sheet. The trick was figuring out the best place to Scotch tape it. He soon learned to avoid the bathroom mirror when the milk started getting low.

We both have cell phones but that doesn’t help. Robert uses his to place calls, not to receive them, which makes about as much sense as having one walkie-talkie. If I do phone him, I know it’s going straight to voice mail. He swears it’s always on which means one of two things: either he’s going deaf or his ring tone has the pitch of a dog whistle.

Before the digital age, we used to play other games together, like golf. It’s been more than ten years since that’s happened due to the unfortunate incident during our last round. What began as helpful tips ended in disaster. It’s not that I didn’t need a lesson; I just didn’t want it. I grew up playing golf, so I could already pinpoint the reason why my ball wasn’t landing where I hoped. It was either my grip or my swing. I’m not sure if it was the heat or his lack of patience that got the best of Robert that summer afternoon. Either way, he had a serious lapse in judgment. He took a picture of me from behind as I swung the club, hoping to show me the error of my ways. When I heard a click and realized what he’d done, he soon saw the error of his. I marched off the tee box and was in his face faster than an FCC censor yanking a Miley Cyrus clip. I took matters into my own hands so effectively that to this day an undeveloped roll of film still floats at the bottom of a Myrtle Beach lake.

Even though we rarely get fresh air playing our computer games, at least we’re exercising our brains. I’m just as bad at this game as I was with golf, but I have expanded my vocabulary. I now know that qis is an actual word. I have no idea what it means except it’s triple points if I strategically place the letters on the right colored squares.

“How sweet,” the nurse had said to us in the hospital that day. What she thought she saw was a man and wife just quietly passing the time. She didn’t understand that this is more than recreation. It’s how we visit. It’s how we communicate. It’s more than just a game to us.

It’s the words we live by.

About The Author