A few years ago a friend of ours who is a single Dad was talking about having his kids over for the weekend and asked Sarah and I if we had any idea on how to keep them entertained.
I happily offered him our PS2 and the collection of games and accessories (Guitar Hero guitars, dance mats) that went along with it. Remembering how much mileage we had gotten out of it, we were sure that his family would do the same.
We gave him our collection (it took 3 boxes and one duffle bag to hold it all) and once in a while we would hear back from him as to how much they were enjoying the games and it was really cool to hear.
Fast-forward to last week. Our friend's kids are now older and have all but moved on. Our friend asked us when would be a good time to return everything to us. It took us by surprise as we hadn't expected any of it to be returned but I admit part of me got a little excited to re-connect and pick up all of the games we had mostly forgotten about once again.
As Sarah and I rode up the elevator to our place, our arms loaded with games and equipment, Sarah caught me smiling as I looked down into the box. "You can't wait to play these, can you?" she said with a smirk.
I confessed to her that it wasn't that as much as it was the games I was looking at: "Stuntman" and "Dance Dance Revolution." I spent a lot of hours playing those games at a time when I needed distracted most.
Without going into too many details and to make a long story short (too late), I was going through a lot of ... stuff ... in the early 2000s. The marriage I was in was falling apart and things with my job weren't in the best place.
There's a gender stereotype that is somewhat true: In tough times girls gather to talk about their problems and guys gather to just hang out together. For some reason, the latter can be just as therapeutic as the former, and in my case my therapy came from gaming with my pal Gabe.
If he wasn't at my house, then I was at his, and we played Stuntman and DDR Max for hours (and hours. And hours) on end. We laughed. We struggled. We took turns trying to figure out how to get through "A Whoopin'," we built stunt courses and dared the other to take them for a run, and we imitated the voice over actors.
Most importantly, though, Gabe was there at a time when I needed someone to be there. It's a time that it is very easily the hardest time of my life and as a result, has made me grateful for those glimmers of lightheartedness.
I don't know why I'm writing this but when I saw those games again and how they took me back to a time when I needed them (and the friend in the chair next to me), I felt compelled to say a public "thank you".
So Gabe...Thank you.