As easy as one, two, three

When our son was little, I gave him three chances to do something: one: when I asked him. Two: when I told him. Three: when I ordered him. He soon learned to pay attention and do things when I asked him to do them, rather than waiting for the consequences that might come with the—ahem—stronger requests.

Yeah, that lasted until he was about 11.

Since then, I’ve been counting to three and beyond in my head a lot, waiting for him to decide whether or not he is going to grace us with his presence at the dinner table or at other family gatherings, such as hauling in grocery bags, picking up his dirty clothing, and mowing the lawn.

For several months after The Blitz, I met with a brain therapist who helped me adjust to life après stroke. She had many good ideas and strategies to offer, and I have put lots of them to use. For instance, she worked with me to improve my math skills. She had these fake checks she had me fill out and then record them in a fake register so I could deduct the amounts as if I was actually keeping my checking account.

I never got anything right. I always had to do everything twice or three times. Remember, I am a college graduate, with a degree and everything. And I used to be able to program computers!!! Like the one you are using!!! I would add two numbers incorrectly and we would laugh and I would say, “Well, I would use a calculator at home,” and we would shrug and move on to the next exercise.

I haven’t forgotten what to do. I just can’t do it. “Oh yes,” my brain says, “we must subtract that number from this number.” “Hah-hah,” my brain replies, “you just go ahead and try.” And the rest is just random numbers.

The brain therapist tried to interest me in one of the online sites that offers brain games designed to improve your mind, sites such as, but none of them caught my fancy. I just couldn’t get into staring at the computer screen waiting for a bird to appear somewhere so I could click on where it was so I could get a “sticker” for my little “bird book.” Didn’t do it for me.

What did get me hooked was reverting back to my old nemesis, Bejeweled. I had sworn off this game several years ago when I realized I was its slave—its slave I tell you—wasting valuable time to its devilish charms, its jewels, its beguiling dance, but now, in my weakened, post-Blitz state, I succumbed.

I blame my partner. In her own bedraggled sick-and-tired-of-caring-for-me state, she had for the first time succumbed to a computer game herself, starting with Zuma’s Revenge and then moving on to Bejeweled. This is what got her through the whole horrid mess, so I shouldn’t blame her. But I do.

Here is my rationalization: Bejeweled requires coordination between hand and eye. It requires that you discern patterns, colors, and shapes, make quick decisions, anticipate your next moves. This was all very similar to the exercises I’d been working on with the brain therapist.

The primary thing you do in Bejeweled is swap the position of two “jewels” so you get three or more of the same kind in a row. Easy as one, two, three. That’s it. Very simple. Of course, they add gee-gaws and gizmos to it, and it’s gotten more and more elaborate over the years. I was not prepared for that.

Nor was I prepared for how hard it would be to count to three. Really.

Since I was at one time in my life, a time I can now scarcely remember, a computer professional, I have a rather nice computer monitor. Therefore, Bejeweled displays very nicely on it. The jewels are clear and sharp, sparkly and fully-faceted. Bejeweled bedazzles me.

Even before the stroke, because of M.S., I had a tendency to get a little dizzy at times looking at wiggly things (or being wiggled), but now all of the bedazzling on the monitor, all of those 64 bedecked begemmed bits of Bejeweled conspire to bedevil me. I became bewitched.

“What am I doing?” I wail to CF.

“Just get three in a row,” she calls back.

Oh yeah, three in a row. Three diamonds, three rubies, three sapphires, how hard can that be—one—blink—blink—splat—two—blink—time’s up!

I stare at the monitor and blink at all of the obvious matches I missed as the field dissolves in something called the Last Hurrah. Well, hurrah for that. Show-off. Has it had a stroke? Does it have M.S.?

Then my final score appears, along with the five top scores of all time, which by now, given my obsession, are all mine, except for the second one, still stubbornly occupied by some guy named Bill, who of course is bogus, since no one named Bill has ever sat at my computer, but he won’t budge from the #2 spot, no matter what I score. I suppose that is to keep me motivated, to strive to occupy all five top spots at my computer, and I suppose I could get motivated and conjure up some programmer mojo and find the place where “Bill” is written into the program at the #2 all-time scoring position, and change it, but I can’t even count to three let alone conjure up programming mojo, so chances are I can’t change the program, let alone beat his score legitimately, which is hard-coded into the program anyway and unbeatable, and therefore I am never going to beat it, and I can’t count to three, and I don’t know how to end this paragraph.

My eyes are spinning backwards in my head, which, you might recall if you have been reading carefully, can presage a seizure, so I should stumble to the couch or at least to the floor, but I will probably trip over one of four cats, which will set off the dog, who will bark, which will trigger a headache, which means I will need to stagger all the way to the bedroom, which is much too far away to go with my eyes spinning this way.

The only sure-fire solution to this situation is a shot of cold Diet Dr Pepper splashed across my face. My son is in his room studying. If I call for him to help me, will he come the first time? Should I count to three?




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