AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 7/08/2004 02:48:00 PM ----- BODY:


My sister's a freak for family board games. Every time we get together for a birthday or holiday, she'll stop in the middle of conversation, and say excitedly, as if this is the first time the thought has occurred to her, "Hey!! we should play [insert name of game here]." She'll usually receive groans in response, but she's a persistent little bugger. The other day when we celebrated our birthdays (hers is July 9 and mine was July 6, so we usually celebrate the birthdays with the family together as part of the Fourth of July festivities), someone made the mistake of giving her a brand new game to play, "Taboo". So we sat down after chicken shishkebobs, rice and two kinds of cake to play Taboo, my parents, my sister and Ben, my grandparents from North Dakota, my other grandfather, Steve and me. My Grandpa Tom has a hangdog Irish face and swollen wrists that shake from arthritis and ended his career as an amateur painter years ago. Personalitywise, he reminds me often of Walter Mathau. My other grandfather, meanwhile, is slowly getting to be ninety and falling apart physically. He uses a walker and has a hard time speaking. But I'll be damned if he's not the funniest member of the family. I can't count the number of times I've wanted to give him a high five. My Grandpa Pariseau is not exactly medically cleared to play Taboo. At first we tried to include him on one of the teams, but he kept shouting out guesses--correct guesses, no less--for the wrong team. So finally we said Grandpa Pariseau was the Wild Card--if he yelled out an answer, whichever team was playing would get the point if it was right. We let him read off the clues on a card, and he almost got one, which is pretty sweet considering he has aphasia from his stroke. The word was "vodka". "Oh, you should be all set with this one," my father hollered and laughed, slapping him on the back. "Oh, ayuh, I been theah befoah." My grandfather replied, then looked around the table and grinned as we all laughed. But of course he couldn't say any of the first words that came to mind, as per the rules of the game, which pretty much left him fresh out of words. But he still managed to get us to guess "whiskey." He did much better with being the "official timekeeper". He'd turn over the little thirty-second timer that came with the game at the start of each turn and let us know when the time was up. My father says Grandpa's dumb like a fox. I believe him. He kept turning the timer over as early as he could when Dad's team was guessing, and then winking at me. He also surprised us by calling time by pointing to the timer and saying very seriously, "Beep." I'm not sure when my family became so cool to be with. Probably when I stopped living with them. Maybe when I realized that all the time I thought my parents were simply devoting all their time to embarrassing me, they were actually paying bills and working jobs and you know, putting a roof over my head and stuff. Now that I've started working a job and paying bills myself and decided that there's no way I'm cut out to do either of those things, my parents look pretty damn smart. And my grandparents before them--forget it. They didn't even have the Internet, for chrissakes. It's amazing to get together with my family now, to watch the generations interact, to see the way my sister's game brings everyone together in ways both funny and sad. Finally the game came down to my Grandpa Tom, muttering and struggling grumpily with one of the cards. He stammered and hemmed and hawed and finally the last grain passed through the timer. "All I can tell ya," my Grandpa Pariseau said, pointing to the timer as my Grandpa Tom swore, "Is BEEP!"