Scrabble, Mahjong and Memory

Reflections on the personalities of my family members (mom, dad, brother and me) when we play our two favorite games – Scrabble and mahjong – and how these games were a consistent bond and scene of reunion over the years as our family dispersed to three countries and my mother began to show signs of dementia.

Mom 1985.png

"Through years of playing mahjong, my family members all developed distinct game playing personalities. My mom was a clever strategist who made her moves carefully. She never gave away what she was going to do. My brother Ted was an excellent player too, but unlike my mom, he couldn’t keep a poker face. He was the gambler in the family, the one most likely to take big risks for a bigger score. My dad was the least competitive among us – he was willing to play but unambitious, since my mom and my brother were so good. I loved it when my dad won, because he never expected it and he would be as giddy as a child. I mostly took after my mom; I tried to play quietly and conceal my advantages. I’m a reasonably good player, but what I was most proud of was this: mahjong was the only social activity in which I could get by entirely in Taiwanese. Within those four walls, I was as fluent as everyone else in the vocabulary of suits and numbers, winds and dragons."