by Dave Barnowski
Times Past, 1969:
Thanksgiving fell on November 20th this year. The Vietnam War raged on with growing anti-war protests in America. Photos of the My Lai Massacre were only a day away from being published. Apollo 12 had just landed on the Moon in America’s second lunar landing. The Chicago Eight were being tried in Chicago. And in Gotham City, an elderly man was waiting for a ride to his nephew’s house and the last Thanksgiving Day dinner he would spend with his family.
His name was Philip Wayne. He was seventy-six years old, and he was bald on the top of his head with short gray hair along the sides. He stood an even six feet tall and weighed two-hundred and thirty-three pounds. He had spent most of his life running the various businesses owned by the Wayne Family and had only given up running the day-to-day operations in the past few years because of declining health. He had given his two faithful servants the day off because of the holiday.
Philip Wayne had the reputation of a hard-hearted businessman, but to those that knew him, he was a warm, friendly man. While it was true that he could be ruthless in business, he would almost always anonymously see to the needs of the people hurt economically by his business decisions through the Wayne Foundation charities that his nephew Bruce had created in the names of his slain parents, Philip’s brother Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife, Martha. Philip had used other resources before the Foundation’s creation in 1945.
A bright red Corvette pulled up in front of Philip Wayne’s townhouse, and a handsome man with black hair got out and went to the door. Richard Grayson — called Dick by his friends and family — didn’t look a day over twenty-five, but he actually had his forty-first birthday earlier this month. Philip smiled warmly as he opened the door and saw Richard, reflecting on the amazing life his nephew Bruce and Dick had as Batman and Robin — that and how because of one of those adventures, time seemed to have little effect on either of them.
Dick helped Philip down the front stairs and into his Corvette. They then left for Wayne Manor. For the past decade now, Richard was Philip’s personal attorney, and while Philip didn’t usually discuss business on holidays, Dick brought up the subject of Philip’s plans for the end of the year by asking him, “Are you sure you’re going to go through with your full retirement next month, Philip? Are you really ready to resign from the board?”
“Only if you have everything prepared for me, Dick.”
“The papers are all set and ready for your signature.”
“Good. I’m relieved to hear it,” said Philip. “I didn’t want to bring it up today, but time is getting short.”
“I know Philip, I know,” said Dick. “I take it you’re going to tell Bruce today.”
“I’d rather not, Richard.”
Dick shook his head. “Philip, you know Bruce is going to invite you over for Christmas, and he’s going to want to know why you’re going to Paris instead. Especially since, by then, you’ll be fully retired and can go to the city of lights any time you feel like it.”
The older man shrugged. “I’ll just tell him I have a rendezvous.”
“That won’t work, Philip,” said Dick. “Bruce always knows when you’re lying.”
There was a prolonged silence as the car motored toward Wayne Manor until Philip finally said, “All right, Dick. I’ll tell him why I’ll be in Paris during Christmas before we leave tonight.”
Twelve-year-old Helena Wayne waited anxiously for her uncle Philip to arrive. The old man didn’t come to the manor all that often anymore, but he always did on holidays, and that made them even more special to her. Philip Wayne was the closest thing Helena would ever have to a doting grandparent, and he filled the role expertly.
Helena was watching a parade on the new color television when the manor’s doorbell rang. “They’re here!” she cried as she ran for the door.
Her mother Selina Wayne beat Helena to the door, giving each of the men a warm, affectionate hug as soon the front door was closed, before they even had a chance to take off their hats and coats.
Dick took his own and Philip’s outer apparel as Bruce Wayne and Alfred Beagle came out to the foyer with a happy Helena. The youngest Wayne ran into the waiting arms of the oldest as Selina went back into the kitchen. Bruce came forward and warmly greeted his former ward Dick and his uncle Philip.
Alfred, the Wayne family butler, was also in the foyer. Today was one of the few days that Bruce insisted that Alfred take off and act like what he truly was — a member of the Wayne Family. He was not allowed to cook or answer doors. Today he was to act like a guest. It had made him uncomfortable in the beginning, but now, after twenty-six years, he was marginally comfortable.
Helena was as delighted as ever to see her uncle. She was even happier when she didn’t smell the acrid smell of cigarettes on the old man. “You did it, Uncle Philip! You quit smoking!” she cried with a beaming smile. She had been very worried about her uncle’s health ever since she first heard about cigarettes being bad for adults. Philip almost always had one in his hands.
The old man looked down at he niece, smiled, and said, “Yes, my dear. I know how much you detest them and how much you love me, so I had no other choice. Let’s go in and watch Lacy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
Bruce watched this exchange with a quizzical look. His eyes silently asked his former ward what was going on. But Dick silently mouthed, “Ask him.”