I stopped at Walgreen’s on my way home last night to pick up a Father’s Day card for my dad. One entire aisle was stocked with cards specific to Graduation and Father’s Day. Cards for Dad were funny, religious, serious, from daughter, from son, from all of us, from wife, from grandchild, even from the dog and cat.
It’s always been a struggle picking out a card for my father and this year was no different. Dad’s eighty now, living in an assisted living facility; he’s thoughtful to the staff, has friends who include him in weekly golf outings and is happily living his life. I’m happy for him. But, for years, our relationship was strained. Not the kind of strain from him imposing an early curfew or not letting me go to the movies with my friends. The kind of strain caused by divorce, sadness, fear, anger and resentment; strain that drives a wedge between two people until the gap is too wide and the space too far to cross to get back to each other. I was a sensitive kid, dad wasn’t the best communicator, not a good combination. There were years of estrangement followed by reunions followed by more estrangement. When I got married dad and I were in an estrangement period, mom walked me down the aisle. By the time I got divorced dad was back in my life and has been since.
Over the years I’ve cried with my friends, worked with professionals, lowered my expectations to overcome issues stemming from my childhood, which more or less, caused problems in many of my relationships. Here I am, for the most part, on the other side of all that hard work; I love my dad, know he did the best he could, given his own upbringing, am thrilled he’s being cared for and likes where he lives.
But, buying a card can be a challenge. I don’t want anything too sappy, don’t want something too impersonal. And now, with dad’s eyesight less than perfect, I don’t want to pick out a card that’s too wordy, an effort to read. So standing in the aisle at Walgreen’s I pulled one card after another from their plastic slots until I found a simple one wishing Dad a Happy Father’s Day and year ahead.
When the teenage boy rang up my purchase, I rifled through my wallet and presented him with the exact change.
“Look at that,” I said.
“Little victories,” he replied.
I dropped dad’s card in the mail today. Little victories, indeed.