Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Family fun ... and a killer instinct

The simple game seemed like a good idea, until the ruthless `playing cards with Mum' switch was triggered

Lay 'em out, and let the old habits resurface as battle commences.
Lay 'em out, and let the old habits resurface as battle commences.

Holidays can be a stressful time for supportive wives. Unlike the rest of the family, who throw themselves into prostrate positions and read books or sleep off hangovers, we still have mouths to feed, laundry to wash and floors to clean.

In past years I have run myself ragged at the caravan making sure everyone was fed, watered and covered in sunscreen.

But this year it was up to the new house for a chance to get to know it by spending more than a few nights there and to also introduce it to our parents and children.

Which is where I learned a valuable lesson about being a supportive wife. If playing cards with your husband ... always let him win.

There is no TV up north and radio reception is sketchy. So, after a few wines one of our children suggested that we get out the cards.

In the 18 years I have been with my husband, we have never played cards.

The few times it has come up we both expressed an inability to play very well and that was that.

Until the other night.

"How about Last Card?" said our son as he shuffled the deck.

"Well, if you remind me of the rules," I said unconfidently. "I played as a child but not since then."

What I failed to tell him, his partner and my husband, was that as a child I was taught to play cards by my mother. Or should I say the Queen of the Cardsharps.

This is a woman who grew up without television, who spent all her childhood playing cards with her large family and became very good at it. It comes as no surprise that in her 80s she is still getting great results at the bridge club. Her family also learned very early on that playing a game of cards with her meant that you had to be on your game. No mucking about.

So my card-playing legacy was top notch. I just wasn't sure if my brain could reach back through the decades and retrieve the information required to win.

"Who was that person who turned up tonight?" asked my husband as we got ready for bed.

"Which person?"

"The one with the extreme competitive spirit. Who did a victory dance every time she won a hand, who called every other player at the table every word under the sun and some more?"

"You're just annoyed that I won all the time. Get over it."

As it happened, I was quite good at Last Card. Possibly a little too good for comfort.

There had been accusations of feigning inability to play cards. These accusations were quite unfair. I had simply switched on an area in my brain labelled "playing cards with Mum". There was no deception involved, I was just as surprised as the rest of them.

At some stage during the night I rolled over to see that my husband, who often wakes in the early hours and reads, was playing a card game on his iPad.

I rolled back and smiled to myself. I had really touched a nerve.

The next morning he was a little distant.

"Everything okay?" I asked as I pulled a loaf of bread from the oven and set out lunch on the table.

He gazed out at our view of the Hokianga Harbour.

"Isn't it amazing that after 18 years you can still learn something new about the person you have chosen to spend your life with."

He said it in such a way that I could only feel that the new discovery was not a good one.

Like he had woken up and found that I had grown a horn out of my head or that my blood ran blue and I was an alien from another planet.

That night our son and his partner, possibly sensing some "friction with the olds" suggested another game which involved dice throwing instead of cards.

"Oh no!" my husband and I chorused in unison. "Last Card!"

You'll be pleased to know that Supportive Wife let him win although he doesn't know that. He thinks that he had up-skilled with his early morning iPad sessions. But my mother did more than teach me how to play cards. She also taught me that when you win at cards all the time no one wants to play with you.

And that men, particularly husbands, don't like to lose.

- NZ Herald

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