Marcus visits Joe once a week to play chess at an aged care home in Goonellabah, New South Wales.
I’ve been here for two years now. A lady did come once and play chess with me, but Marcus is the first person who comes to play regularly. I don’t get many visitors, mostly just my family: my son and daughter and wife. My daughter comes down from Brisbane now and again. My son is out west in Casino. I’m 84.
Getting to play with Marcus is very good. I find it rewarding. I love playing chess. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is that you keep your mind working. We don’t talk much because that’s the way it is when you’re playing chess. You’re busy concentrating. That’s the same whether you’re playing a stranger or someone you know. At the end we say, “I’ll see you next week” and that’s about all. You don’t talk. You play the game.
I learned to play about 60 years ago at a club in Holland. Age makes no difference when you’re playing chess. Marcus is a good player. In all my years, he’s one of the best I’ve come up against. When I was Marcus’s age, I was married and working in a coal mine in Germany. I was working 1000 metres deep under the ground. Very different mining to what you see here.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is that you keep your mind working. We don’t talk much because that’s the way it is when you’re playing chess.
I lived most of my life in Australia, since 1960. I came out from Holland to get a job, became a builder and spent most of my time building Aboriginal housing around Lismore. I also made other things in my spare time. This chessboard is just one example. In the beginning I made my own furniture too.
I’ve lost all the games we’ve played so far, but at the moment I have a good friend here who’s dying and I think that’s been on my mind. I think of myself as a kind person and my hope is that everybody would be the same, but that’s impossible, because people have their own minds. Sometimes their mind is buggered up, because of whatever has happened to them in their life. People are funny creatures.
People visiting, playing chess, it helps with my health. It’s a nice experience, because it keeps my brain working. At the moment I’m a very happy person. I’m always looking forward to next week’s game. One day I will beat him, but that’s not the point. My point is to play and to think.
I’m from the States originally. I’ve only been in Australia for just over three years. I don’t live close to my family and I feel like we stand on the shoulders of the old fellas who have gone before us. I have a general respect for what elderly people have done, even though they might have gotten slower as they’ve gotten older. I’m only playing a game, but it feels good to be involved.
I thought Joe was going to be an expert chess player and I was going to get flogged, but that wasn’t the case. He is really easy to get along with. I was imagining an older Aussie bloke, typical farmer type who was a bit rough and maybe wouldn’t like my hat or something, but Joe is super friendly and keen to play.
I suppose kindness can be big or small. It’s not a word I’ve ever stopped to think about much. I aspire to be a kind person and sometimes I am. I’m still pretty young, I’m 27. Young fellas can be a little fiery and not think everything through the way they should. I try to head in the right direction.
I’m sure kindness can deliver physical health benefits. They say stress is one of the worst things for your physical health, so if having a chat relieves some of that stress or anxiety, then perhaps it would help.
I know older guys like Joe have a different perspective. They’ve seen more things. There’s heaps to learn, because retrospectively time goes by fairly quickly and guys like Joe have a good idea of what’s worth investing your time in. Without trying, they seem to be able to give some wise advice… for free!
Joe and I don’t talk very much. It can vary depending who you’re playing with, but typically if you’re talking too much you get distracted from the game and make a stupid move. It can cost you. Over time, there’s eventually a bit more talking that goes on. I hope Joe enjoys playing. Some people are really gregarious and bring heaps to the table. I don’t play in that way, but I enjoy hanging out with people.
Joe is a social person, he knows everybody in the place, so I think it’s something he appreciates. I’m sure kindness can deliver physical health benefits. They say stress is one of the worst things for your physical health, so if having a chat relieves some of that stress or anxiety, then perhaps it would help. Not only for the old fellas, but for my own health too, by having the chance to talk and share things.