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  • When I was younger, at school, my Dad was often sick. While everyone saw the outer problem -- polio -- to which he didn't pay much notice, he had some secret issues, most notably his penchant for flare-ups of malaria, that used to weigh on his soul. When he had a relapse, he would lie in bed, made more prone by his lack of legs, and lament that he could not be out, active, making house calls, or seeing patients at the hospital, or getting into trouble with any number of motorized vehicles that he would take into fields too muddy, roads to swampy or snow too deep. But mostly he was a man who didn't like to lie still. He was a shitty patient.

    And when he got sick, I imagined him looking at his clock in the mid-afternoon, checking it every so often wondering whether he had actually drifted off, whether the semi-delirium of his low-grade fever had him hallucinating that, in fact, the time had stopped, or, at least, slowed to a trickle. I imagined him waiting, in the silence of the big house, at 3:15 for the sound of the bus coming down the road, of it stopping, of the squeak of the doors never oiled, of the throaty acceleration as it pulled away, of my footsteps on the gravel drive, of the dog whining to get out the kitchen door, of the the clatter of its greeting as I opened the door and dropped my book bag against the floor. I could only imagine him waiting a dutiful period of time, 31, 32 seconds perhaps, before he whistled and shouted to me:

    "Hey, son. How about a game of Monopoly!!?!"

    As if I had any choice. The poor bugger. Bored out of his tree.

    I would grab some water and cookies, sometimes even a can of ale for him to finish in secret before my Mom returned, and I'd head upstairs. He would have the board laid out, some of the cards missing but with his carefully penned recreations in their stead. Baltic Avenue was one of the first that got lost and, in a most fastidious fashion and overcoming his doctor's predilection for bad penmanship, he had carefully crafted a legible facsimile that lasted for decades.

    He loved Monopoly.

    My Mom hated Monopoloy. And she was only too glad to linger wherever she might be until well after I came home. She would come to the foot of the stairs and ask if we needed anything and then sneak off to make supper. While Dad and I battled.

    On first blush, B, I have no memory that sportsmanship, or lack thereof, was ever a factor. I have no idea who won more or lost more. They were kind of a never-ending game, sometimes resumed, sometimes started anew and often the game became discussion boards for strategy and his shared knowledge of history, of railroads and robber barons, moguls and tycoons, all real, information that my father had stored in his brain that he was only glad to let out between rolls of the dice.

    But, sometimes, I knew just how pissed he was when I won; he would lay down against the pillow and say he needed a rest. And sometimes I would tell him of the onerous weight of my pending homework moments after he had taken me to the cleaners.

    But always, the next day, was the same routine. And I had mixed emotions when he was well again, and I came home to only the dog.
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