Every Father’s Day I try to find my Dad a good card but sometimes my choices are limiting. I cannot match him to the Golf or Tennis cards. He plays neither. Nor is he the schlub with a beer gut exerting dominance over the remote control, nor the fly fisherman, deaf old man or puppet of mom.
He is neither the Barbeque Sauce Grill King nor the Plumber’s crack. He also doesn’t look or act like an ape, although I know those Orangutan cards do make him laugh.
Why is it that the card companies portray fathers more like Homer Simpson than say the ancient Greek, Homer? My Dad has lived through some hellish times and his life is an epic poem filled with battles seen and unseen. Seems like I ought not to mix up my Homers. Plus I know he prefers the chocolate éclair over the donut.
Shouldn’t I be commemorating this special day with what it has really been like for him to be a father with a major illness? And find a way to tell him that he’s my inspiration and not my sarcasm.
Or remember that fathers are not thanked nearly enough for the things we take for granted, like Chris Rock said in his comedy show, “Dad, thanks for knockin’ out this rent.”
Snoopy cards worked for a while, but I’m not 13 anymore. Garfield hardly creates shoulder-moving laughter. I don’t even take those off the shelf.
The musical cards are good, but it doesn’t seem right to send him The Beverly Hillbillies theme song more than once in his life no matter how much he loves Granny and Jethro.
I like the serious cards too, but I have to be careful of the dripping saccharine and femmy script. So usually I buy a blank one or make one at home. Those are the best anyway. My own words. I sometimes sign it, “From your favorite pest.” I thought this year, I’d buy a card and make a blog post for him. Perhaps more public than he’d like but I wonder how other people feel in front of the card rack.
I know he liked to be out on our row boat back in the day, but I can hardly bring myself to buy him the card with a schooner. Maritime theme might be a little much. The baseball cards are also a mismatch as I’m sure I’ve never seen him watch a sports game unlike Mom and Ciocia who are taken with football as much as they are Tom Brady’s good looks. (Note to self: Make mom an NFL card for Mother’s Day.) The trophy cards remind me of dust collectors and middle school. So those don’t work.
Why can’t Hallmark make a PBS card? Say, David Attenborough observing a bird through binoculars with some clever British-ism written underneath. Or a picture of Mr. Humphries dancing in his Greek Costume in Are you Being Served? Or the Lady Dowager Grantham saying something whip smart about fatherhood. I know he’d get a kick out of that.
In the card aisle of Walgreens, the woman next to me said to no one in particular:
“There are too many. I just want the one for me.”
I wanted to reply, ‘Oh my god. I know what you mean.’
Instead I stepped away from the layers of cards and took out the little notebook I carry in my purse. I wrote down what she said as if I had just remembered something else for my grocery list.
I wondered what the security cameras were capturing: Me lingering among the cards for too long dressed like I just cleaned a garage, snapping photos and scribbling in my notebook. I don’t know what the radio code word is for crazy but I pictured the security guard saying, “We’ve got a 594. Let’s keep a watch on the nut job in aisle 3.”
As I made my choice, another couple came to hover. They were with a young boy in a wheelchair. He was severely disabled. They were helping him pick out a card. As the woman chose a card, the man said, “He said he wanted serious.”
“Really? Serious? Okay.”
And then a few quiet minutes later she said,
“…not all of them are appropriate, but there are a couple of good ones to choose from.”
I was about to tell them…hey I have this blog post idea that’s running through my head about how Father’s Day cards don’t resemble my father or probably anyone’s father for that matter. These are just poor caricatures or cheezy sentiments. Most of these cards don’t capture his personality or the kind of relationship we have or the fact that my Dad’s paralyzed and none of these cards even make sense with that perspective and some seem down-right offensive. We buy the cards anyway, because it’s the thought that counts. I would just like to make my Dad laugh and tell him how awesome and brave he is and that he is my rock and my beacon. I was going to say it in all one big breath.
But I held that all back.
I had the realization that all of us standing there were trying to honor our fathers in the best way we knew how. Each of us with complex feelings just under the surface, as we silently pulled cards out and stuffed them back into the rack, looking for just the right one.