Cards and Conversations

Observations about life, people and relationships from the card department.

The Wife Birthday Card

Birthday Cake

An elderly gentleman, wearing navy slacks, a collared white shirt, and a black baseball cap with an infantry logo, passed me in the card department the other day. He asked where the “wife birthday” cards could be found. He made his selection after reading every card in the section. How cute. I asked how he would be celebrating her birthday.

“We’ll go to dinner,” he said, “as usual. It’s always special, though, because I feel lucky to even be here.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

His eyes glazed over at a memory from decades ago. “I served in Korea. And I saw too much. It’s hard to believe I’m still alive today.”

He continued. “We got married as soon as I got back. I was 20 years old. And we’ve been married 62 years now.”

“That’s amazing,” I said, “and thank you for serving.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about this man’s story. How he was so young, serving in the war, in love with a young lady who gave him a reason to come back. The happy ending of a marriage spanning more than 60 years includes with it the memories of a young kid in a war. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it seems. Love heals most wounds, though. And this man’s chance to celebrate a birthday with the love of his life continues to heal him. It’s not only a celebration of his wife’s birthday, but a celebration of freedom, of relationships, of survival, of love.

How about you? Do you think there’s more to a birthday card than the reminder of another year gone by?

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The Blank Card

I recently started a part-time position with a card company, stocking the little beauties in a retail setting. I’ve loved cards since I was a young adult, always striving to send the perfect note at the perfect time to a friend or family member and loving each minute of it. Why? Because words matter.

Words are the salve to heal our wounds when we’re hurt, the strength when we need a boost, the comfort when we’re down, the reminders to us we are important. Life is sometimes too busy to have a much-needed face-to-face conversation with a friend, especially when life’s ups and downs are thrown at us. The cards fill those gaps in their special way.

Until it was my job to return cards to their correct pockets, I hadn’t realized the importance of those cardboard sheets categorizing the cards with labels called “card captions.”  Those captions define life in its simplest forms: birthday, congratulations, sympathy, thinking of you, and my favorite, the blank card.

On one of my first weeks at the job, a woman was wandering the department for a while, more than ten minutes. She had a couple of selected cards in her cart, but seemed to still be searching for the right one. I asked if she found what she was looking for.

“I need a sympathy card,” she said. “It’s for my dad.”

I wondered what that meant. Was it because her dad knew someone who died? Then wouldn’t she also know that person who died? Did her dad die? I was confused.

“Well, I’m not sure what kind of card to get,” she said, “because I haven’t talked with my dad in quite a few years.”

Hmmm, it wasn’t about a sympathy card, it was about a relationship. I suggested she get a blank card instead. Cards can change everything, even the blank ones.

Have you had a situation where a card changed your life in a memorable way? I know I have. Many times.