in celebrating the 92nd anniversary of my fathers birth, today, i got a copy of the latest new yorker magazine. unlike 99.99,99,99% of all homes and offices in the philippines back then (and now), eddie romeros office in manila, and our home in quezon city, had, in place of fancy furniture and rugs, stacks upon stacks upon stacks of the things, holding up coffee cups, blocking ingress and egress. just by way of always being in my way, the new yorker became part of my compleat education.
the new yorker cartoons, anyway (no, really, i buy the rag only for the prolix). i cant find it now, but there was this one cartoon, where an older robed monk says to a younger robed monk, as just a matter of fact: but i AM holier than thou. that was back when i was in my evangelical fire-and-brimstone phase. dad handed me the magazine, opened to the page with that cartoon on it, then strolled away with no further remark.
in the current, dads birthday, issue, of the mag, i found this new walsh cartoon, of the maiden, upon slaying the dragon, asking the knight: Like that?
which made me think (after getting over how unkind it is, of either girls or boys, to be slaying dragons) of women vs men, mom v dad, and that game of scrabble that caused tiles to fly, across the library, at moms house, on roxas boulevard, as the sun set, on manila bay, that day, forty years ago. (one thing else i learned from the new yorker? you cant have too many commas)
observing the scene covertly, from behind our chapel door, i had not thought to inquire into causes and such, and mom & dad being mom & dad, i gave the case of the flying tiles no further thought at all.
until last year, when, at long last, Truth came out of Her closet, mum in tow, and all was revealed, in an interview with my mother.
mila del sol, if you know her at all, is just a touch touched. by competitiveness, let us say. she dont like losing, so she just dont lose.
your father, she said to me, forgetting for a moment that i knew my father, was renowned as a “man of letters” (emphasis hers).
so how, she asked, did i beat him in that ultimate game of letters, every time, every single time, except when i let him win?
you cheated?. i asked & answered.
with tiles up my sleeve, she smiled. then laughed. have you ever heard my mother laugh that (fortunately exclusive) mila del sol ha-haa-haaa-haaaaaaaayyy laugh? the towers shook, the bells rang.
not the jays and the zees, she quickly cleared, wiping away the tears. that would have been too obvious. just those insignificant tiles no one ever misses, the ers, the ings, the eds.
“man of letters”, she scoffed, thoroughly amused by Herself.
then: “how is your father?”
(among the many benefits of dementia is that you forget who is dead)
tell him i said hi, she said.
i will, i replied.
and i did.
thus streameth my so-called mind.