Father’s Day, June 18, 2023

NOTE: This column is from 2021.

Who’s the first person on your list for Father’s Day cards? This year, I took a mental list of six names into a store and stared at a rack of cards, hoping to find six that would be 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 them and the 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 that are 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 and remembered 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. My oldest has two little ones girl. My grandson Henry’s dad never knew his own father. But he is determined to be the best dad ever to his little boy. And my stepson has been a fantastic, full-time, stay-at-home dad to his three babes.

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 that he edited over the years) 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.

Recently, when I went shopping for my long list of Father’s Day cards, I spent an hour or more 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, 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 will like them. And that they’ll know we think they are exactly the kind of fathers their children need.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll remember this old saying: It’s not the card, but the thought _ and the love behind it _ that counts.


  1. Katie Musgrave says

    Love this.God bless all. Dads.

  2. Thank you, thank you, Sharon for continuing to post columns that so many of us look forward to every week! Quickly, friends who I’ve forwarded the column to ~ begin to respond with memories you’ve triggered, inspirations you’ve given and positive confidence and motivation you’ve stimulated. We all know you are retired and we hope you are enjoying your “free” time; however, we want you to know how much we appreciate the gift you continue to share with us.

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