Beckwith: Eating, drinking and Grandma Mary |

Beckwith: Eating, drinking and Grandma Mary

One of my favorite card games is gin rummy. The name seems intimidating, like a gimlet, a cocktail you know is old but have no idea what’s in it. However, once you’ve played a couple of times, it comes naturally.

You have 10 cards in your hand and try to fill it with sets of three or suited runs. The way you do that is by drawing from the deck or picking up your opponent’s discard. Once all your cards are part of a run or set, you place your discard face down and say “gin.”

You get 25 points for the gin plus whatever non-used cards your opponent still has. If they have four of a kind, three of a kind and three cards not being used, you’d get the points from those three cards combined. So if their three cards are a 6, 7 and 9, you’d get 47 points total. You can go out early if you’re waiting on one card and think your opponent is in the weeds. For example, if you go down with an ace, your opponent gets one point and you get all the points from their unused cards. Typical games are played to around 200.

I first learned it from Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Mary. I don’t know when exactly, but I can almost guarantee that I was wearing a wet swimsuit with an increasingly wet towel so as not to soak their furniture.

I later taught the multi-player version, rummy, to friends. We played countless games of rummy in college. The games would go to 500 points, and they would devolve into trash-talking and insults before the “losers” would put the money on a running tab for the “winner.”

One of my favorite summertime activities is swimming. I’d go through directions on how to swim, but that’s something y’all should know. My Grandma Mary taught me how to swim in their backyard pool in Omaha. I don’t remember much about those lessons because I was so young, but I do remember her using the technique of propping up my torso with her hand and telling me to kick.

Those days at their pool turned into days at the country club when they sold that house. I loved going to the pool. The diving board, playing sharks and minnows and eating chicken fingers and fries during adult swim breaks were fantastic — except the adult swim breaks. They’re just another case of adults abusing their rule-setting privileges. I mean, if you can’t run by the pool, swim after eating or play on the diving board, what’s the point? I’ve never fallen while running by the pool or thrown up because I swam too soon after eating. I have, however, messed up myself twice on a diving board, but I’m still walking and my disfigured toenail is as healthy as ever.

Why am I sharing personal and largely mundane anecdotes about my childhood and my grandparents? Well, my grandma is an amazing person. She raised my wonderful mom and my seven awesome aunts and uncles. She once went on a date with Warren Buffet but turned him down because “All he did was calculate the food cost of hot dogs at the baseball game.” Her drink of choice is Glenlivet. She even snuck shooters onto a cruise ship in order to avoid paying full price for her afternoon cocktail. She’s also extremely religious, and my usual column fodder doesn’t find her because I like to ham it up and make people laugh.

That said and it being a few days after Mother’s Day, I thought I’d give a gift to her and my mom. She has dementia and I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to write a Mother’s Day column with her around. I thought about telling all her best stories, but they’re not my stories. (Not counting sneaking Glenlivet onto the cruise ship, but that’s more of an interesting tidbit than a story.)

While her physical state prevents her from leaving Omaha, I hope there is enough left for her to absorb this piece, even if it’s just a fleeting smile. Thank you for everything you’ve done, from the tuition to the vacations, but most of all, thank you for the memories. I love you, Grandma Mary. Happy Mother’s Day.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at

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