Father’s Day Cards: When You Don’t Care Enough to Send the Very Best
I heard a comedian once doing a bit about going to buy a birthday card and being freaked out by the overabundant variety of categories. Aside from the obvious birthday, wedding, anniversary and thank you cards, he went on to mention wacko categories like “I’m sorry your cat died of feline AIDS” cards and “Congratulations on the new hairpiece” cards. Ha ha. And I admit there are some odd occasions in the stacks of greeting cards. But today I had the opposite experience, and stared at rack after rack of cards and couldn’t find anything that fit.
As you all know last Sunday was Father’s Day. Just ten years ago I had to buy for 6 dads/grandpas, and now I’m down to 2. Aside from my husband Dave (best dad ever, whoot whoot) I also eagerly get a card for Russ, Dave’s mom’s husband, who is the only grandpa my kids really know. My dad passed away last year and had been in poor health for a while and couldn’t really visit. The kids know him in pictures, but don’t KNOW him. And Dave hasn’t talked to his dad in years. Estranged may be the term, if you assume indifference and not enmity on Dave’s part.
I found a wacky one for Dave and a lovely one for Russ, and then, for nostalgia, tried to figure out what I would have sent to my dad. I always went to the funny ones, because while I could buy my grandpa one with a long poems about sacrifice and heroes and unconditional love and mean it, my relationship with my dad wasn’t close enough for that. We were more comfortable navigating this distance between us with humor. It took a few tries but there it was. Something about a TV remote. It conveyed affectionate teasing. No false gushing. I mentally sent it heavenward and turned to go.
Then my damn inner-Christian had to get involved. “You really should send a card to Dave’s dad. It would mean a lot to him.” Sigh. “Fine,” I said to Nice Heather. “I’ll do it. But I won’t lie.” I can’t buy a card unless I mean every word of it. So I set out to find a card that would wish him a happy Father’s Day but NOT present sentiments that we did not feel. I knew the “For My Father” ones with fishing poles were out. I switched to “Grandpa” thinking that would be safer. But they all said stuff like, “We love you grandpa you are so fun you make me feel like number one.” Well, my kids couldn’t pick him out of a line up, so that’s out. Under the “For Everyone” category, the cards all expressed deep regard and respect for the type of man he was. This is where I got one for Russ. But Dave’s dad is literally and figuratively not in the same category. I was drawn to a Darth Vadar one (if you know the history it’s obvious why), but the inside said, “To a Dad who’s out of this world!!!!” Ummm nope.
Frustrated (and running late) I went around to another aisle in the more generic “Thinking of You” and “Friend” sections, hoping to even find a “blank inside” option. Way way too much gushing. Where are the cards that acknowledge someone as part of our lives without breaking into “Wind Beneath My Wings?”
I just can’t believe we are alone in our ambivalence towards some key players in our lives, so here are some section headings I’d like to see Hallmark add to its Father’s Day line: “Emotionally Absent Dad: Even though you loved golf/work/church more than me, you never beat me. Thanks.” or “Sperm Donor: Thanks for the thick head of hair!” or “Good Enough Dad: You did your best and I’m not too screwed up” or “Feeling Magnanimous: Thanks for being there during a chunk of my life before abandoning us all–Nobody’s mad (expect Mom)!” or “Drunk Daddy: Without the sauce you rocked!” Maybe Shoebox could do funny cartoons about garnishing wages or meeting the “other” family. And those new musical ones could open up and play “Cats in the Cradle.”
I left the store feeling really bad. I want to acknowledge the man who donated half his genetics to my sweet Dave, who at one time was a dear friend to me, who, if he only made an effort, could be a true (and not just biological) Grandpa to my kids. Maybe I should have looked in the “Condolences” section, because honestly, he would be devastated if he knew how much awesomeness he was missing.