When You Can’t Find the Right Father’s Day Card

There are some things a card can never convey. How I feel about my dad is one of them. Which explains why I ignored the greeting card aisle of Target last night. The store was closing in fifteen minutes, and that’s not enough time.┬áThree and a half decades, and it’s still not enough time.

Back then we bonded over burp clothes and bottles, strangers at first, when time seemed pregnant with possibility for Dad and me. But then the water broke and slipped through our hands and before we knew it, I was headed for college, kissing him good-bye in the parking lot, promising to call. And when I called a year later from the steps of the Chemistry building, it’s like we were strangers again, like we never even met.

I didn’t understand him when he told me his secret, and I hated him two weeks later when I came home for summer break and more secrets emerged. Ultimatums were rashly given, emotional altercations ensued, and accusations were made that echo to this day.

Seven years of silence followed.

And then time handed me this gift, this new life to carry, a stranger to bond with over bottles and burp clothes. And it made me think of him. It made me think of starting over. And I remember when I hugged him at the airport, how I’d forgotten why I was so angry. Every night he slept in the guest room I cried myself to sleep, mourning the loss of what once was. Then, when we went shopping, I remember how it felt when he told the salesclerk he wanted to buy something for his wife, and I knew he didn’t mean my mom.

But time took tiny steps anyway. Like my toddler learning to walk, we wobbled our way through. Slowly we found common ground, first by sharing recipes over the phone and pictures and newspaper clippings by mail, then, after more time, meeting her. I remember how nervous we both were, how I reassured her on the phone before we met that I wasn’t going to hit her or anything, and I remember how hard it was not to like her after that week in New Hampshire. I didn’t want to like her, like it was another betrayal for my mom to bear, but I did. So more time was needed. Sadly, more silence followed, too.

But then I knew I’d given time enough time. And I had a husband and little ones waiting for me to put it to rest, to put my soul at rest. And so I did.

Now, I still can’t find a card that says all I want it to say, that tells him how much I love him despite all his shortcomings, some of the most painful ones he shares with his only daughter. There are no cards that adequately express what it means for me to be reconciled — to him, the past, myself.

So today, instead, I spend time with him. I eat on his patio and splash in his pool and cup the water as I graze the surface, holding it in my hands as the ripples move outward toward my swimming youngsters, gently rocking them in their wake.

Father's Day

Father's Day

Father's Day

And amidst the ruckus and the laughing, I find the perfect words:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

Comments

  1. Aunt Linde says:

    Oh Megan, I just read your beautiful words on your trying to find the right Fathers Day card and your feelings for Art. I read and cried and read again through the tears running down my cheeks. I can’t imagine the struggle you went through with your father and protecting your Mother. You are truly a wonderful young woman, wife, and mother. God bless you.
    Love
    Aunt Linde

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