Finding the perfect Father’s Day gift is hard for a man who synchronized many things in my daily life. I mean, how many coffee cups can a guy have with his name on them that never match the rest of the tableware and always end up being used as pencil holders, sold in garage sales, or shattered from the surprise thermonuclear strike brought on by a devilish brother who used it to blow up a snail? Few dads can compare to the hero of our house who peddled stocks by day, and balanced his sanity and bank account by night, making sure his ten children had what they needed. So I’m always looking for an appreciative gift to give him.
It was easy during my grade school years. I’d bring home potted plants from school or crafty painted pictures sparkled with glitter and dried gobs of glue, which felt like the marks of an excellent artist. I was trying so charmingly to solidify the bond between father and daughter. He received enough hand-made cards from me to wallpaper our city’s football arena. One shrill cry of recognition was all I hoped for. He did just that on certain occasions when I brought him something so unique, that he couldn’t help but shriek with placating delight. Like the snack I made him when I was little. I wanted to contribute to Mom’s impressive cooking skills. Only the snack of his choice turned out to be more the snack of my choice. Graham crackers topped off with a creative combination of grape jelly, crushed potato chips, and raisins. I was extremely satisfied in knowing that I could mix something sweet with something salty. That was the year I brought him breakfast in bed, holding a tray tilting with cold cocoa and Honeycomb cereal, the fully-flavored snack followed by a rambunctious dog.
Technically, our house wasn’t a bed & breakfast. So I shouldn’t have been held liable for destroying the entire kitchen to make said breakfast while my mother was showering. The cook room was sometimes my mother’s sanctuary for weird concoctions and commonly messy countertops. I’m sure Dad would have preferred extracting existential meaning from a martini rather than licking raisins and crunchy grape gooiness off the bed sheets, and sipping cold cocoa. Not to mention indulging in puffed combs coated with pure sugar, chocolate milk, and a few dog hairs. In his eyes, it probably looked like breakfast was bathed in some sort of ectoplasm that was delivered by a couple of extraterrestrials. He was a bit spooked by the unsavory appearance, but never really terrified. I was proud for having served such a sumptuous sweet breakfast with my beloved canine.
In the years that followed, I had to ask my Dad for a few bucks so I could buy him a gift. He could have entered about forty ugly tie contests. One year I bought him the greatest gift anyone could give a Father. A wine glass for my mother. Since Dad was the king of making pancakes, I thought the engraved “I flippin’ love you” spatula was the ideal gift. He pretended to love the Superman metal key ring, along with a scribbled IOU that said I’d help him with grilling. He really didn’t need my help doing anything. Like tinkering with matches and trying to light the briquettes from the last BBQ, or dropping humongous plates of hamburgers and hotdogs. Chances were that the fluffy dice I got him another year didn’t really match the cars décor, which brings me to the sleek but relatively unaffordable sports car I so desperately wanted to get him. I thought men who drove them looked so handsome and rugged. The only person who didn’t like that idea was my mother. Dad wasn’t James Bond, nor did he need that kind of crazy fun-to-drive dynamics. With the brood we had, we were more of a sixteen wheeler type of family. I figured a skydiving session was also out of the question. Mom always said to buy him socks, since he lost his with the same alarming frequency as his children. I’m sure all he wanted was to watch the hockey playoffs without us mercilessly pestering, allowing him that little pocket of peace by having his ten caring-but-boisterous-cherubs remove themselves from the house until the puck made its final goal. Our barn wasn’t adequately sized to retain a herd of squealing horses. He would have been equally overjoyed had we cleared our crap off the couch first, making his corner of the stable a bit more comfy.
Dad loved me despite my coloring his Wing Tips. And when the walls were wounded from a conglomeration of toys, he continued to be a delightful and doting Father. There was the potato famine of 59’, when I fed a whole bag of spuds to the squirrels. They wouldn’t eat onions or cucumbers either. And I’m almost positive that Dad never appreciated my offensive tones when I became an irrational teen. I knew exactly how far to push him toward blooming psychosis. If only I had stayed an enchanting newborn for the rest of my life. I am forever grateful that he showed restraint by not leaving me on someone’s doorstep. I don’t know how many times Mom pulled Dad aside asking if she should be worried about me. But he rose above my countless misadventures, because that’s exactly what Jesus and Gandhi and my Dad would do. No matter what, I trusted that he would accept any gift I gave him and still look at me adoringly.
My quizzical brows are always lifted. I wonder why fast food restaurants don’t serve Grey Poupon, and if television networks will bring back Father Knows Best. I’m also pondering again over the perfect present for my Dad this year. I should go visit my ninety-four-year-old knight in shining armor and make him a proper breakfast, something that doesn’t involve sickening snacks and dog fur.