There is no perfect gift for Dad
September 21, 2007
Even though it isn’t until next Friday, I already know history is set to repeat itself on my dad’s birthday: Not only will he be a year older on Sept. 28, but he will do so without a gift from me on that day.
He won’t be presentless for lack of time or thought on my part. I’ve spent plenty of hours racking my brain, flipping through catalogues, surfing websites and browsing store aisles for inspiration. My dad is a remarkably difficult person for whom to shop.
I’ve always wished on him a hobby like golf, sailing, poker or fishing. Not so I can watch him play or tag along with him, but because the world of retail is teeming with plaques, knick-knacks, doodads and tchotchke celebrating the men who tee off, set sail, deal or angle. Yet, he’s never had a particular yen for plaques, knick-knacks, doodads or tchotchkes anyway. Plus, one of the things he’s really good at ” bridge ” doesn’t come with its own a line of gift items. Or at least I’ve never seen a mug emblazoned with “I Should Have Bid Three no Trump.”
If my dad did much more than take out the trash in my parent’s house, I would buy him a set of tools. As it is, he already has the Cadillac of garbage cans. A fleet of them, actually. I guess I could buy him a case of light bulbs since he occasionally changes those. But he’d probably only like it if it came in a bulk variety pack.
My sister and her husband Kevin have no problems finding gifts for my dad. Kevin, in fact, seems to have a blast doing it since he and my dad share the same taste in clothes, or at least they share an affinity for having lots of clothes and for the particular stores in which they purchase them. I suppose I could also pick out a sweater, shirt or tie my that dad would enjoy, but the same amount of money would pay my monthly mortgage bill, and after much soul-searching, my husband and I have decided that preventing our home from going into foreclosure must instead be our priority. Sorry, Dad.
My mom always seems to have an easy time shopping for my dad. She’ll take him on a vacation, or buy him what she thinks he wants. Or needs. Or what she wants him to need or have. Often times he didn’t know he wanted or needed what she gets him, so he’s usually delighted at what she presents. At all other times he knows better than to say otherwise.
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The thing is that most anything he wants he usually just gets for himself. Whether it’s an extravagant TV or a complicated telephone system wired into the television cable, he drives to hither and yonder or across the street or just picks up the phone and orders whatever it is that tickles his fancy. My mom makes him return most of it, but at least he can take pride in ownership for a few minutes in the car while he’s taking it back.
Really, though, what does one get for the man whose hobby is Costco? A man whose list of guilty pleasures starts with homemade baked beans and ends with a trip to Stop and Shop for a gallon of milk? Who counts among his most prized possession a box of Wheaties with Joe Paterno’s picture? If only someone sold souvenir shopping carts. I’d dip his in gold.
He already has World War II memorabilia galore decorating his office. My mom frames family pictures for his desk. A few birthdays back I resorted to a gift guaranteed to make him happy ” a pack of ten gift certificates for a local movie theater (although he claims my mom never goes to movies, so I won’t get him another one until I know he’s used the ones he already has).
When I was a kid my mom always bought gifts from me and my sister for my dad. As we got a bit older and were able to save some allowance, we’d ask him what he wanted and his answer was always the same.
“Brown socks,” he’d say earnestly.
Lo and behold, when he unwrapped the gift each time and a few pairs of brown Gold Toe socks were revealed, his eyes would light up.
Besides brown socks, anything Red Sox-related is also usually a safe bet. For Father’s Day this year I got him six bottles of Red Sox-brand wine (a perfect combination, I thought, of two of his favorite pastimes). I swore I’d found the perfect birthday gift for him the other day ” cufflinks made out of chunks of Fenway Park. But at $230 a pair, I actually thought it might be less expensive if I went to Boston myself with a chisel and sewed pieces of the stadium I personally procured on the ends of his shirtsleeves.
He’d probably like that better anyway. I’d buy him a hat, but he always prefers ones that I’ve gotten for free. “Atta girl,” he says when I tell him whatever freebie I’m passing onto him came in the mail at work, or was included in a gift bag.
If all else fails (and it’s seriously starting to look as if it will), I can resort to what I used to give him when I was really little ” a handmade card. Or, I can take this column, decorate it with magic markers, tie it up in a ribbon and mail it to him before next Friday. Heck, I’ll even throw in a pair of brown socks.
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