My Father’s Valentines

My father’s Valentines came every year. They arrived in anticipation of the holiday, as much as a week early. They were ever Hallmark, the brand that Dad carried in his drugstore. I imagine him surveying the rack with his bottle-lens glasses as he locked the store at night, focused on the “Son” section, choosing appropriately. “To My Son,” they proclaimed year after year. And then inside the typical rhyme. I admit that for years I was embarrassed by the poems… weak, poorly written, overly sentimental. I mostly gazed at his careful signature, “Love, Dad,” and after they had spent a few weeks on my desk, I threw the cards away. My father was no great lover. He bore in his soul the coarse stubbornness of a peasant ascended to the middle class. An anger and hurt from some far away woundedness that he refused to share. He was smart, but he was not glib… the language of love and emotion didn’t flow through him readily. He could never be described as — and never came close — to being either an ideal husband to my mom or a perfect parent to my sister and me. But there was that slow, steady advance of cards signed, “Love, Dad.” Like a glacier of affection whose movement goes unnoticed in the moment but is visible over the years. After the divorce he collapsed into his recliner for thirty years of football. I don’t think he knew what else to do with the pain and the loneliness. The cards always came. “Love, Dad.” Now that he’s gone to his grave, I miss the Valentines. That frosty relentless river of Hallmark. And I believe that although I didn’t savor the rhymes inside the card, he did. And as he read them on his way to lock up the store, he felt them, meant them for me, and hurried them to the post hoping that I might get them in time. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 2 – February 2003