Friday, June 13, 2008

Hallmark just hasn't figured out Father's Day

Choosing a Father’s Day gift and card is no simple task anymore.

I remember when we would make our fathers gifts and cards in school before we went on summer vacation. An empty jelly jar, some macaroni, a lot of Elmer’s glue and some gold spray paint, and presto! A handy little pen holder made just for Dad.

A piece of notebook paper folded in half made a perfect card. We just wrote “I love you” on the front and signed our name in the middle, underneath a drawing of a stickman with spiked hair holding the hand of a stickchild, and we had a card that was sure to melt our daddy’s heart.

I remember the joy and pride that went into making and giving those projects. I would watch carefully as my dad unwrapped the newest use for macaroni and tried to figure out what it was.
He would beam as he set it on the table, the gold spray paint rubbing off on his hands. He would even glue the pieces of macaroni back on when they fell on the table. Even though that man had no idea what the gift was supposed to be, the look on his face told me I had given him the best Father’s Day present he could have received.

As the years went by, the gifts became more sophisticated. New projects in school led to more interesting, and sometimes more useless, gifts.

For example, we learned the art of batik in art class, so my dad received a lovely purple and orange cloth. This time, I wasn’t even sure what it was supposed to be, but my dad liked it anyway.

He stuck with me during the wood burning phase, the leathercraft phase, and the tissue paper art phase. No matter how many useless gifts I bestowed upon them, he had a genuine word of thanks for each one.

In shop class, I crafted a small tool carrier with a handle in the middle. I was sure I had found the perfect gift, and my dad still uses that gift to this day. Never mind that it weighs so much that it’s nearly impossible to carry it around with tools in it. The hours of my time that went into the gift are what made it special.

At some point in high school, I stopped making my father gifts and cards. Instead, I would try to buy my dad something meaningful on his special day.

Even buying a card is no simple task. After weeding through the racks of cards for your stepfather, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your nephew, your brother, your husband, your brother-in-law, your uncle, your son, your grandson, and your mother’s uncle’s cousin, you finally reach the section for your father. Just a plain, ordinary father.

None of the cards seem to fit the image of the perfect Father’s Day card, though. They seem either too sentimental or too crude. There is nothing on the racks quite like the cards I used to make with the stickmen drawn on them.

Choosing a gift is not simple, either.

Being a rancher, my father has little use for traditional Father’s Day gifts. He didn’t even wear a tie to his own wedding, and I’m quite sure he doesn’t secretly golf out in the pasture with all the gopher holes.

My attempts to find a meaningful gift for Dad in a store usually ended in failure. Dad received a gift he didn’t need or necessarily want, and it wasn’t really from the heart.

When I entered college, I had the perfect solution. I just sent a card, since everyone knows that college students are too poor to buy much more than the weekly supply of Ramen noodles.

Now that I have a job, though, I feel like I should compensate my dad for all the years of toil and turmoil it took to raise me. After all, this is the man who got whiplash while teaching me how to drive, chocked down my first attempts at cooking, and didn’t say a word when I slammed a motorcycle into the side of his house.

When I began shopping for that perfect Father’s Day gift to summarize all my feelings for my dad, I realized that I would never find that gift.

This year, I’m not going to give my dad a Father’s Day present. Instead, I’m going to ask him to dig back through his memories of being a father and pick out his favorite one.

It may be the memory of the camping trip that my dad took my brother and me on when we were in high school. It might be the times when the two of us worked livestock together when the rest of the family had left home. Maybe he will remember the high school and college graduations of his kids, the weddings, or the births of his grandchildren.

It might be the simple times he shared with us, like watching the cats, dogs and kids all piled on sleeping bags in the lawn during warm summer nights. Whichever memory he recalls, I’m sure it will bring a smile to his face similar to the one he had when I presented him with his annual Father’s Day mystery gift during my childhood.

That’s my gift to you, Dad. It’s the best gift I can ever give, and it comes from the heart.


BoufMom9 said...

So very sweet and I completely know what you mean!

Dawn said...

I hope he shares his favorite memory with you. Will you share it with us?

What a great idea!!!

Jenny said...

Sounds good to me. My dad and husband have no use for traditional FD presents as well.

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

We always have a hard time finding a gift for my father-in-law too! This year he is getting a few new vice grips...boring to most but he really needs a few!

Trish (wheresthebox) said...

That's beautiful. What a wonderful dad!

Anonymous said...

So, true.. So, how did FD go?


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