We all have read about the value of keeping one’s mind active. The more engaged our brain cells are, the less risk we have of Alzheimer’s, stroke, midriff bulge, bad puns, and urinary incontinence. I want to be mentally fit and healthy well into my Golden Years, and so I seek out every opportunity (well, a few opportunities) to enrich my mind.

Sudoku is too hard. I don’t care for numbers. Learning a second language is out—I have visited other countries, and just find it easier to carry a little language dictionary. I have fun with the occasional rebus, but since “Concentration” went off the air, opportunities are rare. The New York Times crossword puzzle is for people like William F. Buckley. So that leaves me with very few options.

But I have discovered online Scrabble, and I am addicted. I play against the computer, who is a whiz named “Al.” Al has the entire Official Scrabble Dictionary at his disposal, whereas I just have my own mental lexicon and a 35 year old Merriam Webster dictionary at my side.

When I first got to know Al, he dazzled me with his skill. I learned a lot from Al, while being repeatedly drubbed. For instance, I learned that “qi” is a word. So are “qat,” and “resh.” These words come in handy, and the “q” tile is worth ten points alone. Al isn’t afraid to use the word “dog,” because he knows that on his next turn, he will shake the board and rack up huge point values with a word like “euphenics.” Al is a Scrabble army of one.

I, however, am a quick study. Without even making a list, I have committed to memory some of Al’s best words, and I am beginning to beat him at his own game! For instance, I connected “fleuron” onto his “utopia,” and scored in a big way! And Al no longer intimidates me. I just go right ahead and use words like “sure,” and “go,” because I have “fluxgate” and “ligula” up my sleeve.

Scrabble is a game of wit and skill. There are other games that people play to engage their minds. “Angry Birds” has swept the world, along with “Triple Town” and “Farmville.” I learned early on to avoid these games, which burn themselves into the unconscious mind and make frequent appearances in dreams.

It’s a good thing that we now know what to do to remain mentally sharp into our old age. Perhaps with the help of online games and puzzles, I will be quick witted well into my nineties. What a great thing to look forward to: matching wits with all comers, while strapped into my wheelchair, connected to my oxygen tank, and wearing Depends. Thanks, Al!

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