On Winning the Game of Life

The game of Life has origins of perennial
debate. Tales of Romeo and Juliet,
Big Bang theories, and Milton Bradley reprints delight.

The Game of Life in board game form was initially birthed
and branded as The Checkered Game of Life. The first
of its kind for the Milton Bradley Company. Geometric
shapes manufactured in pre- and post-war designs.

An appropriate name given Life’s unpredictable
plays, with built-in rewards for risk-taking combined
with the reality of chance amidst a dance
of someone else’s choreography.

The game comes in a rectangular, brightly laminated
cardboard box. Fully stocked with supplies: player
pieces, a game board, and an instruction booklet
that reads:

OBJECT: Collect money and LIFE Tiles,
and have the highest dollar amount at the end of the game.

Hard Stop.

So, when Damar asks, “Did we win?”,
and his physicians reply “Yes” in unison,
it’s not without acknowledgment
of the unexpected and often unexplained
ways each day comes to play

this game called Life

Hard Stop.

The Game of Life simulates a player’s
possible travels through life, not of their making.
Set up takes no more than five minutes, while
gameplay approximates one hour. Players do not need
to converse. Advancement depends upon rolls of dice
and decisions made with little foresight.
All in the name of the play.

So when Damar asks, “Did we win?”

He indicates, as his physicians say,
“It’s not only that the lights are on,
we know that he’s home”

Life. His way.

The Checkered Game of Life has gone
through multiple publications with adages
and commendations for: “Good Spaces”
and “Happy Old Age.”

While the answer to Damar’s question
can be answered in infinite ways,

its gratitude and thanks
to the emergency response team

for another day,
another opportunity –
to play

Life. His way.

Damar plays to win. And wins the game.
Of Life. That fateful day when first
responders made their own plays. The
blue American Buffalo roared. Then prayed.

The modern version of The Game of Life is curiously arcane. Stocked and stacked of pink and blue cars, plastic automobiles, rigid frames, and rules of the game. Questions of career or college. Milestones and markers for marriage, children, and education. Not in that order. Carefully ordered. Alongside banks of U.S. dollars and clear denominations, the world is infinitely less ordered.

Damar’s foundation raises money for children’s toys. Not for games of life. For life. And it’s many plays. Ways to play. Different versions are largely the same. Games of chance. Rolls of dice. Opportunities. New days. With new definitions of winning. On fields of dreams. Under lights of many seasons. In, of, and out-of-this-world dreams. On replay. Bank on it. In multiples of tens and twenties. To the one-hundredth degree.

To Damar.
To Breath.
To Life. All the Way.

About the Poem

A collection of reflections on what it means to win at the game of life: I’ve never understood board games like The Game of Life. I’ve also never been comfortable with games of chance. A re-look convinced me that neither has changed. What differs is my outlook. This piece is a tribute to Damar Hamlin, with prayers for his well-being. To life, Damar’s full recovery, and the success of his many endeavors – on and off the field.

About the Author

Jen Schneider is a community college educator who lives, works, and writes in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania.

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