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Folding on this bridge game

Dear Annie: A few years ago, I joined a duplicate bridge group in town and got paired with an older man who had just broken up with his partner. He taught beginner classes and was a great help in getting me up to speed with modern conventions, as it had been years since I’d played. We did well for the first two years.

Unfortunately, over the past several months, his skill has deteriorated markedly. He makes simple mistakes in both the bidding and play of the hands, and makes them over and over. I’ve reached a point where I don’t enjoy playing with him, and realize I need to break the partnership and find someone else.

The issue is that he is getting on in years (late 80s), and it’s almost certain that he has had some mental deterioration, possibly even a TIA. Being blunt with him will be hurtful but I don’t know of a better way to do it.

Can you suggest a way to let him down that will keep his dignity? — Unhappy Player

Dear Unhappy Player: First things first, if you’ve noticed potential symptoms of serious health conditions that this man hasn’t noticed yet, you must (gently, privately) bring those matters to his attention, and/or to the attention of his loved ones.

Health disclaimers aside, on to the question of breaking up with him as a bridge buddy: You could sit this man down and tell him that you’ve enjoyed playing with him but you’re looking for another partner. Your time is your own, after all, and it’s your right to spend it how you choose. However. I beg you to step back and consider if that’s what you really want to do.

Think back to a few years ago, when he first taught you how to play, the ways in which exercised patience and grace in helping you improve. Now you have the opportunity to return that grace at a time when it’s really needed. A number of studies, including a 2016 study from the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Harvard Medical School, have found that social isolation increases the risk and accelerates the progression of cognitive decline.

Instead of ditching your partner altogether, consider finding a less-competitive bridge circle or a less-competitive card game in which you two can participate. Meanwhile, on your own, you can pursue another bridge game that allows you to satiate your appetite for competition. Again, your time is your own, and it’s ultimately up to you with whom and how you want to spend it. So I don’t present this as an obligation but an opportunity. To quote the illustrious Leonard Nimoy: “The miracle is this: The more we share, the more we have.”

Dear Annie: In response to “Seeking Decorum”: I have often traveled on airlines with a small dog. If one owner does not ensure that his animal is clean and well-behaved, it should not spoil it for all. It is heart-wrenching to leave an animal behind when out of the country for long periods of time.

Many airlines are prejudiced against animals, and airlines who do allow them should not be discouraged by people who do not like dogs. Also, dogs do not get a free ride. It is very expensive to buy a ticket for an animal to ride underneath the seat ahead. And until better conditions are created, it is often unsafe for animals to ride in the cargo area. — Animal Lover in Quebec

Dear Animal Lover: I agree that traveling in cargo can be unsafe for pets. There have been a number of instances in which pets have tragically died when left on hot tarmacs while in their carriers awaiting loading. I hear and second your plea for more compassion toward those traveling with companion animals.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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