A Father's Day Letter to the Man Who Thinks He Looks Like Sam Shepard

Dear Dad,

Thanks for the voice mail message. I'm happy to hear you're recovering from your recent judo injury and that showering is again an option. I seem to recall a conversation we had about belts when you first signed up for the class. I thought they had some significance. You thought they were just a fashion accessory. I think we both know now who got the dry end of that stick.

I've tried to call you back but your line is always busy. I've told you not to encourage those tele-marketers because they really can find out where you live and, as the cops explained last time this happened, teasing them with a line about you winning the lottery is probably a bad idea.

It's Father's Day on Sunday.

STOP! Do not crumple me. Please keep reading.

Dad, you do not look like Sam Shepard.

We have this same conversation at the same time every year. The one where I insist and you resist. I thought I'd write you this one time instead of getting shrill over the phone. We both know how unattractive that is.

Before you remind me, yet again, about the many times Mom said you could have been Sam's twin brother, let me open your eyes to the truth.

Mom lied. In a call-the-fire-department-immediately kind of way.

You and Mom had an amazing relationship. Every good marriage thrives on a solid foundation with generous helpings of strong mortar. What people don't always understand is that even a great relationship needs a little silly putty. Being flexible with the truth was Mom's silly putty.

You do not look like Sam Shepard.

But sometimes growing up, you reminded me of characters he played. Like the time you tried to convince me you worked for MI-5. In your heart I know you wanted desperately to say "CIA" but even then I knew we didn't live in America. It's your son who's geographically challenged, not me. But you almost had me convinced until I heard Mom talking about your new postal route, in district M-1-5, London, SW.

Or when you told that story about being a fighter test pilot. And the way you were always asking people if they "had a stick of Beemans." It was years before I realized you weren't actually talking about a cricket bat owned by the local beekeeper.

Dad, I am enclosing a copy of a photo I took after you helped that lady in the park search for her contact lens. I can't believe you gave a smile this big after 30 minutes of poking through a pile of squirrel droppings. You. Are. A. Saint. But Dad, you still don't look like Sam Shepard.

Now I want you to take a good look at this picture. Take it with you into the bathroom and hold it up beside your face. Look into the mirror. Say these words out loud so I know you understand: "I do not look like Sam Shepard."

I can hear a "but" coming. Don't even. You're a good-looking man; you have movie star charisma in spades. You embrace life with a wonderfully optimistic sense of humor, and you cook a mean pot roast. You are all that and a bag of saltines. But it's time to admit the truth. To yourself if to no one else.

Dad, you do not look like Sam Shepard. You look better than Sam Shepard.

Because you look like my Dad. Happy Father's Day.

With love,

Your daughter.