A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker



Iím not an expert card player. I will admit that up front. Iím no Diamond Jim Brady. Iím no Brett Maverick. Iím no Sundance Kid.

Heck, Iím not even my mother, who could play all four hands in a game of Canasta simultaneously. She perfected this art when I was a teenager and she was waiting up for me to come home from dates. I considered it an honor to participate in the development of Momís card-playing talents, so I gave her lots of lonely late-night practice.


But this much I do know: when you sit down to play a game with cards, it is almost always best to have all the cards in the deck.

Which is why I threw out two decks the other night.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Anita asked as I dropped the incomplete decks into the garbage bag.

"Theyíre both short several cards," I said, my voice edged with frustration. "From now on our cards are off-limits to anyone younger than 45."

Anita chuckled. "Well, that would eliminate me," she said.

I hesitated, and considered my options.

"OK, weíll make it 40," I said. "But if any more cards turn up missing Iíll know where to start looking."

Anita cleared a few more paper plates from the table.

"We had a lot of people here tonight," she said, "and most of them were playing cards. The missing cards could be anywhere."

"I know what you mean," I said. "Iíll bet Mike stuffed a few up his sleeve."

"Thatís not what Iím saying," Anita continued. "I just think somebody misplaced them or something. Theyíll probably turn up tomorrow."

"Or not," I said. "And then when we go to play cards again Iíll get stuck with the short deck. In fact, I probably wasnít playing with a full deck tonight. Thatís why we lost."

"Honey, you havenít been playing with a full deck for years," Anita said, smiling sweetly. "Itís part of your charm."

I wasnít exactly sure what she meant by that, so I just cinched up the garbage bag Ė partial decks included Ė and took it outside.

The next morning we went to my sisterís house for breakfast along with many of the card sharks from the previous nightís party. I was right in the middle of a ham and cheese omelet when my teenage nephew, Jake, pulled something out of his pocket.

It was a handful of cards.

"I found these in my pocket," he said. "Iím not sure how they got there. Honest. I wasnít cheating or anything."

Everybody laughed at Jake, who was blushing at the implications of the hidden cards. Anita was laughing, too Ė only she wasnít looking at Jake.

To her credit, she didnít say anything. She didnít have to. Weíve talked about it often enough during the 25 years that weíve been married. Although there is a time and a place for quick decisions and impulsive action, more often than not the solutions to our problems will eventually present themselves if given enough time. We just have to be patient. Or as Kenny Rogers said: "Youíve got to know when to hold Ďem, and know when to fold Ďem."

And know when to throw them away.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through