You know what’s sad? It’s been so long since I’ve played Alien Hotshots that I can’t remember a thing about the card game. I can only tell you that 20 years ago it was part of my daily routine, and now I can’t remember a thing.
I don’t, for instance, recall how the game arrived at Pat’s Screen Printing. Maybe I brought it in; perhaps it was a gift from someone. The best I can recall this morning is that it was some version of War, with brightly-colored pictures of aliens, and it was a game that could be played with two, three or four players.
Pat, founder of Pat’s, had this round table with a red Formica top on it. She used this both for consulting with customers and also for eating. [We still have it and it’s still supposed to be a lunch table, but there’s always stuff in the way.] Somewhere in her last year she saw an ad for a lamp-ish product that looked like a flying saucer, so she sent off for it. It was so much less, once it arrived, than it had been billed as that it was funny, not a disappointment. It was a cheap tin, wobbly bit of construction with a space in which to put a tea light, and it got dubbed “the lunch light.” I’m not sure we ever put a tea candle in it, but it sat dutifully on the round red table and supervised as we played Alien Hotshots every day during lunch.
And when I say “we,” I mostly mean Bob and me. As her cancer progressed, Pat spent less and less time with us and more in her apartment directly above her shop. Fred was there, and sometimes he played, although I think he usually spent his lunchtime away from the shop, and John was sometimes around, but the constants were Bob and me.
Pat died; Fred moved to Greeley; John left the t-shirt world for the sandwiches of Firebrand; Bob and I still played Alien Hotshots. Occasionally we broke it up with games of Mastermind, but sooner or later we defaulted back to the cards, which got so greasy from playing while eating that we had to invest in a second set.
Far away in Denver, where he has been for weeks, Bob died in the wee hours yesterday, less than 12 after his friend Dave made the decision to enroll him in a hospice program. Dave, who up until Bob’s health issues over the last many months had a daily routine with Bob much as I used to, although they reloaded ammunition rather than playing cards, struggled mightily with the decision, but so far everyone has assured him it was the right decision to make at the right time for Bob. Bob fought against long odds for a long time, but at some point he was bound to reach the finish line.
I spent a lot of time yesterday talking, either on the phone or in person (beginning during my blogging time), to several of Bob’s friends, including Dave. Over the last couple of weeks, any time I’ve listened to Dave talk about his relationship with Bob, it sounds eerily like the friendship I shared with Bob 15-20 years ago. Everything Dave says about Bob, the good and the exasperating, sounds just like what I used to say.
I’m glad Dave has been there for Bob, and just as glad that a medical power of attorney turned up dated earlier this year. Dave was closer to Bob than probably anyone else these past few years, including Bob’s family, so it was right that he made this very difficult decision on behalf of his friend.
Most of the people I talked to yesterday were from my era with Bob, still in contact, but not as close as they once were. Some of it became a function of time, some of it distance as several of his friends moved from Gunnison, and perhaps — as in my case — some of it philosophical.
Yesterday was wearing and draining. It was nice to hear from people, one of whom I’m not sure I’ve talked to in over a decade (time and distance), but at the end of the day it just felt very long.
This morning, though, I am remembering — even if I can’t recall the rules — Alien Hotshots (and even finding a box that looks never or barely used) and the simplicity of a friendship shared over cards, under the supervision of the lunch light, on the round red lunch table.
It makes me smile, and it makes me sad all at once. But that’s okay.
I am taking these cards I found to Pat’s, and no matter how busy we are, we’re going to take a moment to first read the directions, and then play a game in Bob’s honor. It will be a good way to remember him.