Final Hands

Clarence (left) and Tom (right) throwin' a few bags

Shortly after the Sunday Star Tribune article was published, I’ve enjoyed receiving stories from readers all over the country. If it fits the timbre of the project, I’ll post one story a day for as long as I receive them. Clarence Decker was one of the first to reach me–his story is below.


I saw the article on you in the Sunday Star Tribune.  I love to play cribbage, and enjoyed reading about your endeavors.  I’d like to share a story about a very meaningful cribbage game I had with my friend, Tom, who died of stomach cancer in June, 2009.

Tom and I (both in our 70s) played thousands of cribbage games together.  Tom was suffering from stomach cancer, and he was in hospice care at home.  He was very weak, and I knew this would probably be our last cribbage games with each other.

We usually played three games.  He won the first two, and then he had to take a break and rest.  After about a twenty minute nap, he awoke and wanted to play the third game.  I knew it most likely would be our last game ever, and I silently wanted him to win.  But I wasn’t going to let him win, because that would be dishonoring him.

For almost all of the game, I was ahead.  As we approached the end, it was his crib, I was going to count first.  He needed 16 points to go out, I needed 13.  It was obvious to me that he had no chance, because he would have to peg more than 16 points to win, assuming I would be able to go out with my hand.

I was dealt two sevens and two aces.  The cut card gave me no help.  I had 8 points in my hand, and I would have to peg six points in order to win.  I started by playing a seven.  Tom paired me, giving him two points.  I played my other seven, giving me six points.  I said, “I’ve got you now, Tom, as I moved my peg.  Then Tom played a six, making the count, 27.  I played an ace.  Tom played an ace, giving him another two points.  I played my final ace, saying, “I’ve really got you now, Tom”, and I took the six points leaving my peg in the stink hole.

Tom said, “Not yet”, and he played the fourth ace, giving him 12 points plus two for arriving at 31.  He had just pegged 18 points, leaving me in the stink hole.  I was stunned.  I’d never had anyone peg 18 points on me before.

When I tell people this story, Tom’s widow likes to chime in, “Yes, and Tom was on morphine!”

Personally, I think Tom was receiving some divine help that day.  Tom died two weeks later.  I visit his grave, weekly, and I always tell him to save me a spot at the cribbage table.


One thought on “Final Hands

  1. Thanks, Dubs. This was so heart filling and a wonderful read. Tom was a very special person and I think of him a great deal….and ALWAYS with a smile on my face.

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