Still Game

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I moved into the assisted living home that several of my bridge-
playing friends already lived in. I’d been more stubborn about moving
than they had been but I am also five years younger. The problem is
that two of them, both of whom I have partnered with over time, are
developing serious issues of mental decline. I’m not a doctor and don’t
know from Alzheimer’s or dementia. But I do know bad bidding, poor
memory, and addled playing. It’s not just that it’s no fun but that they
are also verbally abusive and blame me loudly and inaccurately for
their mistakes. How can I get out of the game with them and still see
them at meal times without a lot of bad feeling? There are lots of other
people here I would much prefer to play with.

Still Game

Dear Still Game:

There’s a fine line between taking good care of yourself and rudeness
to your friends. While they are still cogent enough to play, albeit badly,
I think you focus on changing their behavior while playing and
consider the time you spend with them a mitzvah. You can limit the
number of games that you play with them and balance it with the
frequency of becoming part of the rotation of games with new people.
If your oldies ask why, you can say honestly, I don’t like it when you
yell at me. But totally cutting them off feels like too harsh a penalty
that also lacks compassion. When there are four of them they can play
together. Until then, hang in there.

When you do play with them, ask them to keep their voices at a
normal volume and their tone civil. If they do not, consider saying that
this is the first of three warnings and if they violate it twice more you
will not keep playing with them. Rational people will respond. People
who cannot control themselves or who lack memories will not. If their
rudeness to you continues you will have a reason to play with them
less and less. But friends of a lifetime are hard to replace. I’d counsel
patience until they decide they are not going to play anymore.
Eventually even old bridge players throw in their cards. Pay attention if
and when your new friends start treating you with the same caution.