My father was always one of the most difficult people to shop for. He was never sentimental, so any kind of handmade item would not pass muster. Our number one criterion was whether the gift was returnable. We got him various items of clothing that were never worn, music that was never listened to, electronics that were never used… Once, we got him an electric toothbrush because his old one had bristles that were misshapen and getting gross. That was returned because “the speed was wrong”.
Often, we’d just find whatever gift we got him untouched and still in its original box, and so they’d either go back to the store or be confiscated for our own use, like the stereo set (back in the days when we had stereo sets), which I got good use out of.
When he was suffering from back pain, I noticed that at his office, he had a very uncomfortable chair on its last legs with seat cushion falling apart and innards hanging out. It was taped over several times with duct tape. No joke. I bought him a comfy, ergonomic chair and even brought it all the way to his office and moved it into place. When I went back to visit, the duct-taped chair had made its way back and the new, ergonomic chair was wheeled off into a lonely corner. I am now sitting on that ergonomic chair as I type.
In my recollection, the one gift he loved, was oddly, a battery-operated coin sorter (which was a freebie that my sister got from her work). It was supposed to be a gag gift, but he kept that one and used it until it broke!
Are there any memorable gifts that you either gave to your father or received as a father?
PHILIP: Last year for my dad’s 70th (which is a big deal in Korea), got to send him back to visit Korea for 3 weeks. It was only his second trip back since immigrating here in the early 1970s and the longest trip back he’s been able to take so was happy that he got the chance.
ALFREDO: The best Father’s Day gift I ever received I didn’t receive on Father’s Day. Normally the boys get me boxes of chocolate – often the kind with the lid upholstered to look like a tuxedo – and that’s great. But a few months ago, as I was driving with my older son Rafael, who just got his driver’s license, he teased me for listening to my iPhone in the car. My playlist came through my phone’s tinny little speakers. “Nice sound system,” said Rafael. “Put the phone in a plastic cup and you should be able to get 2 more decibels out of it.” (that’s actually true). A couple of days later I opened my car door to find some kind of weird cable sticking out of the cassette tape player (my car is from the land of 2002, when cassette players still made cameo appearances here and there). Rafael climbed in the car and said, “I got that for you. It’s for your phone.” I gave him an uncomprehending glance, and he plugged the strange cable into the jack on my phone, and, magically, my phone started playing songs through the car’s speakers, loud and full. At first I thought to myself, he just wants better sound for when he borrows my car. But I was wrong. He prefers his mother’s car. This really was something he bought just for me, just to improve my life one little notch. In time I will forgot that cable, or replace it. But that my son, who isn’t always the warmest and fuzziest of young men, thought of me and of something I might enjoy, and spent his own money to get it on a dreary old non-holiday…well, that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
DHH: Er, can’t really remember anything, either as a son or a father. Love Alfredo’s story, though. This year, I’ve gotten hints that my kids are going to get me that acoustic/electric Ovation guitar I’ve wanted since college. We’ll see if it actually happens.
ROGER: Of my 3 girls, two of them are finally of age where they can find or make a gift for me (they 3 ½ and 5 ½). So it’s really the first time where I’m actually getting Father’s Day’s gifts from them. On Friday, my 5 ½ year old came home with a mug. Half of it was grafitti’d with every color of the marker spectrum to the point that it was black. I believe it originally said “I love you daddy” on it. But she managed cover it up with the her creative vision. My 3 ½ year old daughter came home with a jar with a bunch of orange worm-like things stuffed in it with a typed tickertape that said, “Happy father’s day.” When they both came home from school Friday afternoon, they ran up to me and thrust the gifts into my face and screamed, “happy father’s day.” Though the gifts kind of sucked, the emotion of their offering and their mega-smiles on their faces were more than priceless. :)
BEVERLY; Strangely enough, my family only occasionally celebrates father’s and mother’s days because my mom goes thru the roof when I spend my money on anything because everything is ‘wasteful’ and ‘we don’t need that, save your money’ and ‘you must be conservative(with your money)!!!’ One of the few gifts I’ve tried to buy for my dad was an iPad mini. He was so intrigued at the Apple Store and he really wanted one, so finally I bought one. Unfortunately my father is blind and even with the accessibility buttons (for blind folks), he just couldn’t understand it not did he have the patience to learn it. It just sat there all unused. Couldn’t even figure out how to use the camera. I asked to borrow it for a trip in December (since he wasn’t using it) and he said, “Here, have it.” And he pulled it out of a low drawer where he keeps scratch paper. I really find that taking them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the SF Zoo gets more bang for the buck. At least I can visibly see they enjoy it. This year he got a card and next week we’re going to farmer’s market where he can smell and taste the fruits. Those are the gifts that we as a family can understand.
EMMIE: Was your Dad an immigrant who grew up in hard times and witnessed extreme poverty (I wonder if that made him shun new material goods)? My dad was, and has remained a frugal and practical person. He’s worn the same clothes for many years, hand launders them to save energy, eats all food to avoid waste (even if it tastes terrible and is starting to rot), and discourages unnecessary purchases. For a while he boycotted our gifts by refusing to open them (for many months – my mom finally opened them). I get nervous about giving him gifts, but I still want to show I care and I especially like to give him things that I think will improve his quality of life (like you with the chair).
My dad does approve of gift items that he would have bought anyway, like dental floss and green onions (which he has received as past gifts). Probably the most effective Father’s Day “gifts” I’ve given were notecards, in which I expressed thanks to him for being a great Dad, etc. We don’t communicate much in person, so anything meaningful is said in writing.
Happy Father’s Day to all, and to your dad, Iris – you must miss him lots.
BEVERLY: (In regards to Emmie’s response) Dental Floss?!? Honestly, I can see my dad enjoying that too. Thanks for the tip!
IRIS: (to Emmie) Yes, I do miss my dad and I should have known that dental floss was the solution!! What you said about him was correct, down to his preference of hanging up his clothes to dry rather than using the dryer (which, by the way, always made his clothes smell musty). If we had any leftover food, rather than throw it out in the trash, he would throw it out the window “to feed the coyotes”. Yeah, he was a little odd.