Bluffin' Bev was a regular at our Friday night home game at Tin Man's. She loved playing and seldom missed, so all of us wondered where she might be when she didn't show up one Friday 18 months ago.
Bev's health had deteriorated over the past couple of years and she had been on dialysis for several months, but none of us were very concerned until her third week of not showing up.
I made a mental note to give her a call the next day.
The news I received from her husband Mike wasn't good. The doctors had discovered significant blockage in one of her legs, which required bypass surgery in order to get sufficient blood flow to Bev's lower extremities. The procedure involved harvesting an artery from the groin area to use as the bypass vessel. The surgery went well and she was sent home.
Within a few days Bev was back in the hospital with severe groin pain. The incision had become infected and she was put on both a painkiller and an antibiotic. It was the beginning of a year in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities.
I called frequently and usually spoke with her daughter Sarah, who would fill me in on the latest news, which I would in turn report to the Friday night poker crowd. Each report would be worse than the one before and although none of us verbalized it, there was a feeling of dread whenever Bev's name would come up. It got so bad at one point that I was checking the obituary column daily, looking for her name.
Three weeks ago I called and once again got Sarah. This time however, there was a different tone. Sarah explained that her Mom had finally been released from rehab the previous week and was home again. At the time I called, Bev was at the hospital receiving her regularly scheduled dialysis treatment. Sarah said that she would be home later that afternoon and to call then.
I hadn't talked to Bev very many times over the past 18 months, but her voice sounded much stronger to me than it had in some time. Her attitude was much more positive than I had heard in a quite awhile, and I asked if she might come play poker with us again. She explained that she would like to, but she had one of her legs amputated above the knee due to gangrene, and was now wheelchair bound. She was uncertain that she would be able to get in Tin Man's home because of the stairs leading up to his front porch.
That Friday I looked at Tin Man's house with a new eye, and determined that we would be able to get Bev to the poker table without too much trouble.
I phoned her again last Thursday and asked what she was doing on Friday.
"Oh, nothing. How about you?"
"I'm playing poker and thought you might like to join me," I said. "I'm sure we will be able to roll you in."
At that point she started crying. "You don't have any idea how much this means to me," she said with a shaky voice.
Her husband drove her over last Friday and I met them out front of Tin Man's house. Opening the passenger door, I leaned in, hugged her neck, and the waterworks started.
"I've missed everyone so much!" she exclaimed as I rolled her up the sidewalk, onto the porch, and into the house. She was greeted with more hugs from Big Daddy, Lil' Annie Okie, and Tin Man.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Philly Phanatic showed up late and missed the grand entrance, but he was happy to see Bev seated across from him at the table once again.
I was able to take first in the tournament and made a $16 profit on the evening, but everyone left a winner on this special night.
Bev explained that she still had some issues from the painkillers she had taken. She was slowly being weened off of them, but that was the only obstacle she had left to overcome.
Anytime you're reunited with a friend you thought you might never see again, it's a night you won't soon forget.
Welcome back Bev!
Till next time, win the flips.