Luck of the Draw

Colette Marie


My dad has forgotten my name.

He’s tired from working in the yard 

but stands from his chair on the patio

lifted by delight as if someone 

flipped on the switch 

for the lights and music, cued 

a party to begin. 

“Well, look who’s here!” 

he says, smiling for all the world.

“It’s my lucky day.”


My dad can’t sort out which day it is 

or what time, and doesn’t remember

whether or not he’s had his lunch.

But he can sort the cards in his hand.

Dementia hasn’t stolen those from him yet.

“Where’s your mom?” he has asked 

nineteen times in the last fifty-five minutes 

as we play rummy. I can’t help 

but keep count. “Running errands,” I say 

again. He responds with a smile again.

“I’m lucky,” he says. “To have your mom.”

He looks me in the eye, 

serious, “I’ve been lucky, 

you know, my whole life.”


My dad has one card left 

after laying down a jack of hearts 

on his eight-through-ten run. 

“Your turn,” he says.

I draw a card and wonder 

if my mom is stuck in traffic, 

discard my queen.

He picks up the queen and grins, 

“You could have played that.”

As if he’s still teaching me—the one

who taught me how electricity 

works, how living things sprout 

and grow, how to tie a knot, 

hammer a nail, how to swim

in the deep end. 

He snaps the queen

into place next to his jack 

and discards out. 

“I win,” he declares, 

surprised. “You know, 

my memory’s not so good

anymore. I got lucky.”


My dad has always been good at cards

with his quick mind, his ability to focus, 

to calculate far into the future.

I remember how he bought

snow tires for my car

after I moved to Colorado, wired 

the light on my porch 

when he came to visit, drove 

his truck slow with my son, ten days old,  

strapped into the back seat. 

He fixed the broken trellis, put in 

a new kitchen sink 

and a ceiling fan in the bedroom 

after my daughter was born.

“You still want to play?” he asks.

I nod, gather up the cards, 

give the deck to him to shuffle.  

The cards make an arc

between his work-battered hands,

fold perfectly into place

making a neat stack.

He furrows his brow 

with concentration, deals slowly

back and forth, until 

there are seven cards each

on the table between us. 

“Me too, Dad.” I pick up my cards

and smile. “I got lucky too.”