Though he is my father, I don’t see him often. We find that our father-son relationship is more effective on the telephone. Sometimes we speak daily. Sometimes we don’t speak for a month or more. But the shorthand we keep, I think, is less time consuming, and in many ways more efficient, than the times we interact face to face. Once every few years, he and I arrange a rendezvous at Fort Foggel to reenact a famous duel between General Portmanteau and Colonel Loggs, and he always kills me—a gut shot, from which I lie in a shady patch of grass for several hours, howl at the sky and recite patriotic verse until he crawls to my final resting place and draws a heart of ketchup on my cheek. The phone call that followed our last reunion was surely our most stirring.

He said, do you remember that line you spoke: If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may never meet in the next?

Yeah, I said.

Well, it’s actually, If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may meet in the next.

I felt the subtle change would have a more profound effect, given the situation.

Indeed, he said, putting me on speaker, sounding far away. War is a total loss situation. A total loss situation . . .