Who’s the first person on your list for Father’s Day cards?
Recently, I took a mental list of six names into a store and stared at a rack of cards, hoping to find six that were perfect, or at least not too terribly bad.
The list did not include my dad, my stepdad, my granddads or my children’s dad, who all left this world long ago. They were good fathers. You’d have liked them. I loved them dearly. I often give thanks, not just on Father’s Day, for what they meant to me and my children.
But I no longer send them cards. Instead, I take a few moments to remember each of them and things they did that made me happy. It always puts a smile on my face. I think they’d like that better than a card. And besides, they didn’t leave a forwarding address.
Why do Father’s Day cards (the few still left when I shop for them) often seem unbelievably bad? Don’t dads do more than fish? Or grill? Or take naps? Or tell dumb jokes? Some might do all of those things. But that’s not exactly why we love them.
My dad never touched a grill. He loved to fish, told a lot of corny jokes, and after years of changing shifts each week at the mill, he might nod off mid-sentence. But I loved him for being the kind of father I needed, who made me feel smart and capable and loved.
My late husband was well respected as a teacher and a coach. The high school gym where he coached is named in his honor. He wasn’t someone who’s easily summed up on a greeting card. No one is, really.
But more than a teacher or coach, he was the kind of father our children needed to become the people they’ve become and to raise the grandchildren he never met, but would adore.
Much like their dad, my two boys are wonderful fathers. My youngest has three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. My oldest has two little ones, a 2-year-old firecracker and a beautiful 1-month old baby girl.
My son-in-law, bless him, never knew his own father. But he is determined to be the best dad ever to his little boy.
And my stepson is a fantastic, full-time, stay-at-home dad to his three babes, ages 9, 4 and 2.
I wish you could see them all.
For the past 20 years or so, the first person on my Father’s Day card list has been Papa Mark. That’s what our grandkids call him. He never knew my children (except through my columns) until after they were grown.
Before we were married, when he was just my editor and friend, what I liked best about him was hearing him talk about his two boys, and seeing how devoted he was to them, though they lived hours away and he saw them mostly on weekends.
That was a lifetime ago. I had no idea of the kind of grandpa he would become to the nine grandchildren we now share. The kind who reads to them. Plays music with them. Grills burgers for them. Hunts lizards with them. And brings their nana her morning coffee.
On my latest shopping trip for Father’s Day cards (for Papa Mark, my two boys, my stepson, my son-in-law, our brother-in-law and a nephew who just welcomed his fourth child) I spent nearly an hour rejecting card after card.
Finally, I rolled my eyes and picked one for my husband that read: “The Man, the Myth, the Legend. Happy Father’s Day to one of a kind.”
For the others, I ended up with cards that were a bit sappy, but true. Not perfect, but the best I could find. I signed them all “Happy Father’s Day! So glad you’re a dad!” Papa Mark signed them, too (except his own) and took them to the post office.
When the dads open them, we hope they’ll know we think they are exactly the kind of fathers their children need. And that they’ll remember the old saying that goes: It’s the thought (not the card) that counts.
Sharon Randall is a syndicated columnist and the author of “The World and Then Some: A Novel.” Contact her at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 or via her website at www.sharonrandall.com.