Women celebrate milestones over bridge for 20-plus years

What does a group of octo- and nonagenarians do when they get together at a Port Lavaca restaurant the second Thursday of the month? They play bridge, of course.

Out come the card decks, the pencils and tally cards and the tablecloths to occupy two tables at The Pantry, 702 N. Virginia St. In comes the laughter, the stories and the competition provided by Dodie Griffin, 92, Kay Lynch, 87, Linda Ward, 89, Ida Ralston, 89, Paula Williams, 91, Lynda Frazier, 85, Betty Wall, 89, all of Port Lavaca, and Jane Taylor, 80, of Cape Caranchua.

After meeting to play bridge for more than 20 years, the women in this bridge club have celebrated each other’s milestones including birthdays, graduations, grandchildren’s weddings, great-grandchildren births, and discussed their faith, their health or “aches and pains,” and losses, including spouses, fellow friends and bridge players.

On July 8, the group celebrated Ward’s 89th birthday with a lit candle placed in a slice of pie.

“We’re a young club. We’re hitting on our 20s,” Griffin said.

If asked how well they play the game, answers vary from “terrible” to “excellent.”

To play, the dealer distributes 13 cards to each player, one card at a time, face down, beginning with the player on the left. Each partnership attempts to score points by making its bid, or by defeating the opposing partnership’s bid. At the end of play, the side with the most points wins.

“It can take forever to win,” Griffin said. “I love thinking about my hands and what I’m going to get. I’m going to draw the ace of spades.”

“You have three progressions, and whoever has the highest points after three progressions is the winner,” Frazier said. “It’s one of the better things to keep your brain going because you have to think.”

The spoils of the sport? Five dollars.

Despite who wins, camaraderie is the goal. The lockdown due to COVID-19 forced the club to quit meeting for a while, but many foursomes met in individual members’ homes. One must be invited into a club to join it.

Staying Active

The Calhoun County Senior Citizens Association offers a space for bridge at the Heritage Center, 2104 W. Austin St., when players are eager to get together. People of all ages play mahjong, a Chinese game played with rectangular tiles, on Fridays, and hand and foot, a card game similar to canasta, on Thursdays, said Rebecca Jernigan, executive director.

“There is a group of ladies who do play bridge, but they don’t have a set day they meet,” she added.

Thursday is “game day” at the center for a crowd of 30 to 40 people at a time.

“They all merge together because they all know each other. They’re open to newcomers. Sometimes we have that whole room filled up back there,” Jernigan said.

Players will have lunch at the center, and, after lunch, they’ll start the dominoes, loteria (bingo), and many other games wrapping it up at 4 p.m.

Regular bingo for seniors (age 60 and up) is from 10 to 11 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays with prizes.

“We’re trying to get bingo going again (post center shutdown due to COVID-19),” Jernigan said. “It took a while for the word to get out that we were open. We gradually started reintroducing bingo.”

Social isolation can cause loneliness and depression, and it can impact an elderly person’s physical health, Jernigan said.

“It’s so important for our seniors to keep their minds active. It’s great to see people we don’t know, and to see our regulars. We serve as a catalyst to bring people together because some of these people have known each other their whole lives.”

Jernigan said seeing the county’s seniors daily for the congregate meal, or on a weekly basis for activities, helps the center staff identify and address a need.

“It lets us know if they’re OK. It’s a way to visit with them, like a wellness visit when they come here.”