A Birthday Exchange

(Dick Snider wrote this letter to his children 35 years ago today and the oldest replied to his siblings two days later – Editor)

March 20 , 1985

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is the sting of an ungrateful child.”
Grandma Snider

To the ungrateful:
On the occasion of my 64th birthday I take note of the fact that not a single one of my progeny sent tidings of any kind. This is duly entered in bold ink in the ledger of life, and will make it that much easier for me to bequeath my rather substantial holdings to the Redemptorists, the Benedictines, the Libertarians, the Sisters of Mercy and Oral Roberts.

While I ponder five successive failures in the matter or rearing offspring who care enough to send the very best, or even the very least, I will find some solace in leaving you to mourn the lost luxuries of hefty inheritance … the lost Lears … the lost Glenlivet … the lost trips to islands in the sun … lost to forgetting the towering figure who could have provided it all. Up yours.

R.S. Snider

“The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”
Grandma Snider


March 22 , 1985

I feel it my duty to assuage the tremendous guilt I know each of you feels due to the enclosed letter.

I for one feel especially guilty and not for the usual reasons, like being unable to find his current address. (His letter came in a pretty envelope don’t you think? It had “CFA” printed as a return address. I think Mom said it had something to do with his latest job. Let’s hope for her sake it works out better than “LSF” and that the next return address doesn’t begin “OPEC”.)

No, my guilt runs deeper. I know now I should have sent more newspaper clips home to help him maintain at least a semblance of grammatical skill.

In line 7, for example, there is a comma following the word “life” and before the word “and”. Rarely is a comma needed to separate a clause that begins with “and”. In this case it is totally uncalled for and indicates a slowness, a redundancy, a wandering mind.

Perhaps he was excited.

This last point might explain line 13, where the word “or” should obviously be “of”. Is this haste? Or is it perhaps the sign of a fertile mind made barren by an inability to stroke the keyboards?

I can’t say but the guilt remains. I know I should have sent more of my dramatic and precise material to him on Polo Ave in Des Moines, or maybe NW 49th way in Wichita or was it Cornwall way in Hampton, Ks.

All of which won’t do the rest of you much good. Still, I feel the need to offer some help, so here are some excuses you should feel free to use:

“I was in Detroit. When’s your birthday? I was at Kemper’s. Deadline. Shrdlu could do better than that shitferbrains. I have to go to Kingfisher with Bud. Why the hell would you want to go out to eat? Patton is on. Run to the store and get me some soda. Can you drive yet? I’ll be in Lincoln with Dev. Are you old enough to drink? “

Yes, I know some of these have been used before. Don’t feel bad. Great people are often quoted to advantage.

Great people also overcome guilt.

While you ponder 60 or so odd failures in the matter of forwarding remembrance to one who rarely left home without it, you should find some solace in that you are mourning only the lean leavings of hefty inexpensiveness … the last Rambler… the locked bar… the long beach weeks (and I mean Delaware: what is this shit about islands?) with Blondie, Dagwood and the rich kid, the Kraut headwaiter, the skirt sniffer and the fat kid … lost to remembering the torpid figure who provided it all. All yours.

R.S. Snider, Jr.

“Please take your feet off the footstool.”
Grandma Snider

“Get your goddamn feet off the furniture. Jesus Christ, were you born in a barn?”
R.S. Snider

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