If you have an ostomy, and you snack while playing a table game, you’ll be excusing yourself during the game to take care of business. This I did, one afternoon, while visiting my mother’s house and playing Scrabble. We had a years long history of this: when I came home for a holiday during college; when she visited me after I’d gone off on my own; when we got together after she’d gotten older and moved in with my sister. Just recently, in fact, long after my mother’s death, my sister informed me that she’d discovered, tucked away in a drawer somewhere, amongst my mother’s “effects,” all the pads of Scrabble scores going back decades. The game, it would seem now, at least to her, was serious business. And it reminded me of an incident, long ago, that disturbed me at the time but had faded into the mists of the past. My mother and I were playing Scrabble. I had placed my word down and left the table to go to the bathroom. One of her diminishing faculties, in those years, was her losing her hearing, so she likely did not hear the toilet flush. As I came out, with a clear view down the hallway, through the living room, to the table in the dining room where she sat, I could see her rifling through the tile bag, looking to improve her prospects. My mother was cheating. How is a dutiful son supposed to deal with this kind of discovery? I thought to myself, remembering my childhood, that she probably cheated then to let me win when we played cards. It’s just a game, after all. You let the child win. So I made it simple. I said nothing. I was returning the favor.
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