I understand, the game of chess is seen as having an “opening,” “middlegame,” and “endgame.” Apart from how the pieces move, that’s all I know about chess. Looking back over eight decades, I see human Life has its “opening,” if we’re lucky a “middlegame,” and, luckier still, “endgame.”
Every game of chess begins with two rooks, two knights, two bishops, one queen, one king, and eight pawns on the predetermined squares at opposite sides of the board. Each unique human Life begins with genes and environment arranging the “pieces” higgledy-piggledy across the board. Compounding this challenge, our opponent and his pieces are invisible!
Through training and study chess players learn various openings, middle-, and endgame moves. With no prescribed opening, success in the game of Life depends on experience, especially if we learn from our bad moves. As I see it, most of us continue making, often repeating, bad moves until checkmate.
For me—I believe everyone— Life’s the first eight years, its “opening” moves, were decisive. Caprices of nature and nurture arranged my pieces in close-to-ideal positions. But, ten days after my eighth birthday, the phantom opponent took my King, Daddy, checkmate! Game over.
But I still had my Queen and faced the specter of a middlegame. The only move I saw was somehow to protect Mama. My game strategy became, “Be a good boy and don’t cause problems.”
My sorely foreshortened opening made for an overextended middlegame. With fractured, chaotic notions of how to move, to become a man, I blundered forward. The ensuing two decades was, at best, a stalemate.
Through serendipity, pure dumb luck, I found a Master! Psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Chernel saved my game and my life. His genius guided a lonely thirty-three-year-old bachelor, me, and a twenty-seven-year-old divorcee with two children, Karen, in creating a, I like to believe, minimally dysfunctional family.
If three score and ten marks the end of the middlegame, despite taking advantage of my allotment of botched moves, over the past decade and a half I’ve been blessed with the sweetest endgame any man has a right to expect.