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Column: Apples fall close to the tree

As I shopped at a local grocery store in June of 1992, I came around the corner and found myself staring at Father's Day cards. I stopped in my tracks and burst into tears, wondering if I had ever found the perfect card for my dad. It had been seven months since he passed away, but those pesky tears were always waiting to be released.

While my father would be the first to tell you he had made mistakes as a parent (Who hasn't?), he was a larger-than-life presence in my world and I learned a lot from him. Even though he wasn't around as much as I would have liked, he made the times we were together count. Dad worked and went to law school when I was young and after he graduated, he worked even more.

Like my father, I also worked too much. When you sell cars on commission, as I did, it involves being at the dealership many nights and every Saturday. Luckily, my children had a father who was willing to learn how to iron, wash clothes and fix dinner. "Women's work," many would have said back in those days. As my son reminded me recently, one of his dad's favorite recipes involved Minute Rice. While the rice was cooking, he opened two cans of Campbell's Chunky Beef soup and heated them in a sauce pan. Then he poured the soup over the rice and called it something fancy like Chunky Beef on Rice. When he wasn't serving this tasty treat, he liked to heat up Hormel Chili (without beans) and serve it atop slices of soft white bread.

Other nights, meals were McDonald's eaten in the car on the way to one of the children's sporting events. Most of which he coached. He drew the line at soccer, which our daughter played, but couldn't say no to baseball, and girls and boys basketball. He never missed a concert, play or parent-teacher conference, either. He and I may not have had a successful marriage but he was, and still is, a good father.

Our son is a father now, too. His four children range in age from nearly 6 to almost 16. Standing in the card section of a store, trying to find the ideal Father's Day card for him is frustrating. Fishing rods, lake scenes and geese don't make me think of my son. Funny sentiments and goofy characters don't, either. I want one that tells him he's an awesome father. That his soft-spoken patience with his children is inspiring. I'd like to find a card with a picture of a tall young man who bends down as close as he can to hear every word a chattering child has to say. Or a father who accompanies his teen-aged daughter to Herberger's to look at dance dresses.

Hallmark should offer a greeting card that pictures a daddy sitting on the living room floor, ignoring the football team on TV while he listens intently to his son read aloud from the book he just received a as a gift. I'm not looking for much, just something that says his success as a father makes his mother proud.

While I'm at it, I should find a Father's Day greeting for his dad, too. One that says, "Did I ever thank you for showing our son how to be a loving father?" Here come those pesky tears again.