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Father’s Day Resolution

June 19, 2015

Dear Friends,

Please do not send me any greeting cards or well-wishes this Father’s Day. I don’t deserve them.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a competent father, and I don’t have anything against recognition. The reason I don’t deserve your holiday greetings is I’ve made little attempt toward reciprocation. I rarely wish anyone a happy birthday if it’s not in person. No one hears from me on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Secretary or Boss or First-Cousin-Once-Removed Day, nor any of the other hallmark holidays that fill our calendar in the 21st century. I forget to send thank-you cards and don’t return e-mails or phone calls.

I have been, in short, a crappy friend.

I can’t even claim ignorance. This wasn’t written after an epiphany about my behavior. I’ve watched myself get distracted, then feel guilty and build a philosophy to alleviate the feeling instead of doing something about it.

  • I don’t want to support consumerism.
  • My almanac has always run a little slow.
  • I don’t have time to wish everyone on my friends list a happy birthday, so I don’t acknowledge birthdays at all. That way everyone is treated equally.
  • I prefer genuine interaction to superficial greetings, which is what social media has turned these holidays into.
  • Obligation is the kryptonite of desire.

They don’t sound that bad, do they? There’s a kernel of truth in at least one these statements – enough to make a younger man believe he’s discovered something profound. The problem was – like most reactionary movements – I didn’t do anything but reject what wasn’t working. I made no attempt to work around the problem of holiday consumerism nor solve the excellent dilemma of having so many friends nor overcome the pervasive illusion of obligation.

Then, just last month, while waging my silent rebellion against Mother’s Day, I read about Anna Jarvis, the founder of said holiday. Anna Jarvis ‘invented’ Mother’s Day in 1908 as an opportunity for everyone to go home and spend time with their own mother, thanking her for everything she’d done. Jarvis was shocked and disturbed when her holiday turned into a commercial bacchanalia of flowers and cards and candy; she fought to return the day to its reverent roots, calling out Eleanor Roosevelt and crashing parties and getting herself arrested. Her life ended in a sanitarium.

Now there’s a woman who lived and died by her ideals.

Today the commercialism / consumerism of Mother’s Day continues unabated, while Anna Jarvis and her intentions are largely forgotten. It’s hardly surprising. The world was already changing in 1908. Just over a century later, how many people live in the same town as their mother? How many can write their schedules around an annual visit home? Cards and calls must suffice, and even superficial greetings impart a sense of connection. To deny this is as futile as a fart in a windstorm, which is about as effective as my silent rebellion ever was.

So here is my resolution, only five and a half months beyond the new year: I intend to be a better friend. I will make an effort to respond to invitations and return emails and phone calls. I will write thank-you cards and remember to send them. But most of all, as a solution to nearly every point on my list of philosophies ERR excuses, I will make an attempt to have a meaningful interaction for no particular reason with each and every one of my friends before next Father’s Day.

Friendship for the sake of friendship. That sounds like a good example. Then, and only then, will I feel worthy of accepting your greetings and well-wishes.

Sincerely but without flowers,

Bo Mandoe

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From → Rants

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