After he realized he wasn’t cut out to be a priest (that’s a whole different story, for a very different day), my father decided to open a bookstore. And he tried bravely to make a go of it. But selling things just didn’t seem to be in his DNA. After they (my mother had arrived on the scene by then) went bankrupt, they made a game of paying off their many bills.
For even though they had declared bankruptcy and could have – legally – walked away, they felt honor-bound to settle each and every one. For years after the shop had closed they gave each other paid bills as Christmas, Birthday and Anniversary gifts – all wrapped up and shining. The Loves.
Except for Hallmark.
As a religious bookstore, it galled my parents a little that their biggest sales came from Hallmark. But that was the truth. Hallmark cards kept them solvent. The rosaries, the statues, the pious books – they didn’t appeal in the same way. Those Hallmark cards were timeless and evergreen. People were willing to pay for them.
So when they declared bankruptcy and wrote to all of their creditors – the Catholic publishers and the purveyors of religious articles and, ahem, Hallmark – that they still intended to settle their bills, it shocked them that each and every one of them wrote back sternly with terms and conditions all spelled out.
Except for Hallmark.
Hallmark wrote back saying: Case closed. All is forgiven. This debt is over. We don’t want your money.
Mom and Dad sent their little checks regardless. $31 this month. $22 the next. Hallmark didn’t cash them. All the other companies did. And they pressed them for more.
Hallmark, on the other hand, said: “What is it about “over” that you do not understand?”
I have loved Hallmark ever since. Sentimental, sloppy, emotional, over-the-top. I don’t care. Hallmark didn’t cash my parents’ checks. They refused to.
My Dad became a librarian. He lent books out for free. They came, they went, and the more they circulated the happier he was. When he died on August 1st, I wrote him a song, one verse of which was:
And may his life live on, as a reference to remind us
That love must circulate, that the world is built on kindness
And may we lift him up to the King of every glory
And bless him on his way to the next page of his story.
How lucky are we?
Thank you, Hallmark.