By Wayne Chan
There comes a time when you look back on your life and recall the moments when you truly accomplished something special. For some, it might be a physical act, like climbing Mt. Everest or finishing a marathon. For others, it could be a creative act, like writing a best-selling novel, or inventing a better mousetrap.
When I look back, I am proud of being a good father and husband. But the more I contemplate my accomplishments, the more I keep going back to the one success that towers over the rest.
I finally beat my mother-in-law in a game of ping pong. Immature, you say? Insignificant, you proclaim? Let me explain.
My mother-in-law was born and raised in Taiwan. Every day during lunch, as well as three nights a week, she gets together with friends to play ping pong. She is consistently the league champion.
As for me, I get as competitive as you can possibly imagine. I will risk serious bodily injury and humiliation in order to win a point.
When she arrived in San Diego, my first instinct was to play nice. After all, I was the future son-in-law, and the reason that her daughter was moving from Taiwan for good. Fairly early on, she suggested we play ping pong. Sounded innocent enough, and while I don’t play that much, I figured heck, I’ll even let her win.
The first match set the tone. Not only was she beating me, she was blowing me away, and to make things worse, I could tell that she was taunting me in Chinese as well.
“I’m sure you can beat me”, she said. “Should I hit it softer?”
For the next few days, I knew my mission in life. No need for sleep. I became one with the ping pong paddle.
We played over 30 matches. I never won, but at least I heard some new taunts.
“Maybe you should try playing left handed…or maybe I should.”
“Where are my glasses? I can’t believe I’m winning without my glasses.”
The next day, she was gone, back to Taiwan. My official ping pong record was zero wins, 35 losses. With each day that passed, I muddled through with no purpose in life. A broken shell of a man.
Fortunately for me, a few months passed, and she called to say she would be visiting us again. The clouds lifted. Time for a rematch.
She arrived, and after exchanging pleasantries, we got down to business. The first ten games were a replay of the last trip.
But then came the 11th game. I could do no wrong. I have never played so well, before or since. Final score: 21-18. Game over. My new record: one win, 45 losses.
She wanted to keep playing, but there would be no rematch. I would finish my career with a win.
Does it make any difference that she had jet lag from her 12-hour flight here, or that I’m twice her size, 20 years younger or that she still has a 44-game advantage over me?
Nah. A win is a win in my book.
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