Playing Scrabble

“I’ve got a triple letter on my q and it’s a double word score too!” If you’re a Scrabble player, you know how exciting this can be. I’ve loved playing Scrabble since I was a child, but only recently has it taken on new importance in my life.

You might wonder how a blind person can play Scrabbel, unless you’ve been fortunate enough to play on a brailled Scrabble board. The board’s grid is raised, so the tiles fit securely in each square, thus making it unlikely that they will be accidentally pushed off their positions. Each premium square, such as a double letter or triple word is marked in Braille. DL for double letter, TW for triple word, etc. Each tile has a print letter on it, with the numeric value, but also a Braille letter and numeric value. My scrabble game is decades old, and the board has seen some interesting repairs. My daughter owns one too, and so does my mother, so I don’t have to drag it all over the place. Unfortunately, these sturdy boards are no longer being produced, so we really have to be careful with them. A newer version has been available for some time, but it is a far inferior product. The plastic tiles have raised letters, which interfere with the reading of the Braille. I find them virtually impossible to read.

Playing Scrabble with a real board with real live people sitting around the kitchen table is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday or holiday afternoon. Lately, I’ve been playing Scrabble with my 96-year-old mother on Wednesday afternoons. We’ve developed a routine with my visits to her assisted living home. On Fridays, we go to Happy Hour together. On Mondays, we go to bible study, and on Wednesdays, we play Scrabble. She really lights up when I suggest I get out the Scrabble game. At 96, she sometimes has difficulty coming up with a word she wants to use in conversation, but her vocabulary at the Scrabble game is awesome. She has been a crossword puzzle player for as long as I can remember, so some of the words she comes up with are foreign to me, but then I was never any good at crossword puzzles. She keeps score, because she has always been the score-keeper in our games. She has to use a magnifying glass, even for surveying the board, and although her methods of addition are meticulously executed, she gets confused as to whose score is whose. I don’t care. The final score is not important, but she delights in beating me by even one point. Who knows if that is the right score. I don’t try to keep the score in my head. The important thing is that we’re both exercising our brains, interacting over a challenge that’s fun, and we’re not talking about how bad her back hurts or how she wishes she could have her old life back and still be living in her own house.

For those two hours on Wednesday afternoons, the most important thing in the world is to get to that triple word score, use all 7 letters in one turn, or go out and leave your opponent holding a Q or a Z.




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