I got ambushed by a greeting card. The H@llmark shop is a dangerous place for me. Any rack of cards can hold treacherous expressions of sentiment that can trigger intensely painful memories and emotions. When I have to enter the place I can usually steel myself to run the gauntlet, put on blinders to look at only the section that is relevant and avoid the obvious pitfalls. but once in a while one card strays out of its category, hides out under cover of mingling with a different crowd, and surprises me.

The most recent attack came not from “H@llmark” but from another brand - an innocuous-looking birthday card designed for a son:

“You are loved for the little boy you were,
the special man you are now,
and the wonderful son you’ll always be.”

It is warm and loving and perfect – and absolutely foreign to my experience growing up or my treatment as an adult. I can’t even imagine receiving such a message – but crave it all the more because of its impossibility.

I’ve always had problems finding suitable cards for my parents – most of the time I settled for one with a nice picture on the front and just a minimal greeting – “happy birthday” or “happy mother’s day” – or whatever. They don’t make cards for what I really feel about them – “If you enjoyed the way you screwed up my life, then at least one of us got something out of it!” … or worse things that I can think of!

My wife wanted to send valentine cards to all our family members. For our kids and their spouses and the odd aunt and uncle - that is OK with me. But she wanted to send one to my mom (the only remining parent on either side) – I am not OK with that. My mom was a silent, passive accomplice, in my eyes – to the step-dad’s abuse, nearly as guilty as he was because of her refusal to admit what was going on – and her refusal to intervene. I don’t want to send her a card that gushes over how much I love her or how she is the best mom in the world – or even wishes her a generic happy day. The card was sent, despite my opposition – i said – “I don’t want to – but if you do – I just don’t care.” At least I didn’t have to pick it out.

At what point is it OK to ignore the nice conventions of polite society, quit doing all the things that are expected – and honestly speak and act the way you truly feel – in keeping with the reality of the situation and relationship?

"My experience has shown me that I all too often tend to deny that which lies behind, but as I still believe, that which is denied cannot be healed." Brennan Manning, "All is Grace - A Ragamuffin Memoir"