Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

A Card-Carrying ConundrumJust in time for Mother’s Day, my normally low-maintenance wife suddenly developed expensive tastes.

You know what she requested this year?

A pair of large shiny rocks, for starters. Plus a new set of wheels. Plus a chunk of real estate.

Obedient husband that I am, I acquiesced on all fronts. I bought the two stepping stones she’d been wanting for her flower bed. Also a two-wheeled cart to carry her gardening supplies. Also a bag of potting soil.

Am I Husband of the Year material or what?

But the toughest part of the process was finding an appropriate Mother’s Day card. I shopped early and often, trying to procure the perfect expression of sentiment. It simply did not exist.

What I wanted was an all-inclusive card that addressed Mary Ann’s three roles: wife, mother and grandmother.

No such thing exists. Of approximately 878,539 selections I thumbed through, that exact combination was not to be found. Here, though, are some of the Mother’s Day cards I did locate:

For new mothers. For stepmothers. For aunt, sister, sister-in-law, Nana, nurse, godmother, friend, “someone special,” “almost like a mother,” and “any mother.”

I also found Mother’s Day cards from a variety of sources. Such as: From daughter. From son. From daughter-in-law, son-in-law, granddaughter, grandson, and other relatives up and down the family tree. Even (I swear) the cat and dog.

I found Mother’s Day cards with bookmarks. With magnets. With recorded music.

I was particularly puzzled by all the Mother’s Day cards that were categorized as “funny” and “religious”—and couldn’t help but think there must be polar-opposite selections that are “non-funny” and “sacrilegious.” If so, they weren’t on display. Maybe they’re kept under the counter.

To compound the problem, I also was searching for a birthday card for Bill Henry, my wood-whittling friend who’s about to turn 80. In the store where I shopped, rows of birthday cards stretched out like spokes of a giant wheel. No telling how many forests were shorn to make them.

There were birthday cards “for her.” “For him.” For bosses, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and friends, ad infinitum. But none for wood whittlers.

However, I did find one (as in singleton, uno) for an 80th birthday. It was among a vast inventory of cards celebrating the following numeric birthdays: 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 85th, 90th, 95th and 100th. No card went beyond 100. Presumably no one deserving a card lives beyond that age.

Alas, that lone 80th birthday card was so boring and so lame, I couldn’t bring myself to insult Bill’s keen sense of humor by purchasing it. Instead, I picked out one with a ribald theme, totally unsuited for polite company. I’m sure Bill will like it because his appreciation of weird humor is almost as sharp as mine.

At least I hope he likes it. You never want to get on the wrong side of a guy who handles sharp knives with flair and aplomb.

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files). Contact him at