Thursday, May 23, 2013

Non-presents for dad

As I stood in an antique clock shop in downtown New Orleans inspecting more closely an iron cowboy clock, whose lasso turns along with the second hand, I realized that maybe I'm bad at getting birthday presents for my dad.

Seriously, what DO you get for dad?!?! 

It’s a very common problem. It's why The Sharper Image and SkyMall exists. 

But my dad is especially hard, because what DO you get the smartest person you know???

I remember growing up, we used to buy him ties.

The staple Christmas tie, MATH tie, the tie with animals, the tie with all the fleur de lis, etc.

And then he stopped wearing ties, and we didn't know what to get him. 

So, we overloaded him with shirts because he mentioned once that he liked the " henley " style that didn't compete for neck space with his beard. 

So then presents became  Henley  shirt after  Henley  shirt after  Henley  shirt MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! Henly shirt after Henly shirt.

In high school, we moved on to buying him the same cologne every year, at his request, purchased by our mom at the mall department store.

When the three of us children went off to college, our dad got various purple and yellow LSU merchandise for every present-giving occasion, along with maroon  College  of  Charleston  “DAD” items and UT Austin shirts. 

But now that we’re ADULTS, I've been trying to get my dad things that are more thoughtful, and things he'll actually like.

But the problem is, he never says that he wants anything! Other than a framed photograph here or a backup hard drive there (backup hard drive… least fun birthday present ever)

Over the years, my brother Franklin, twin sister Joy and I have tried to take mental notes of things we remember our dad pointing out as interesting or funny while window shopping.

Like…uhhh…a quirky antique clock?

(Spoiler alert: I did not buy the cowboy lasso clock, because I found out it costs $450.)

But you know, I'm still not convinced he'd even like that very much. 

I say this with experience -- we've had a few fails...new tennis shoes have been pushed aside because "there's nothing wrong with my white sneakers." 

A grilling basket for shish kabobs - "Who needs that?? My vegetables never fall off. What kind of shish kabobs are you people making?"

OMG and the worst – a gift for my parent’s anniversary, I got them a nightlight that had their photo on it. Which made them look like skeletons with big teeth when plugged in. (Speaking of, I need to be removed from that company's email list.)

So, this year, as my mom and I take dad out to a super fancy dinner tonight on his 71st birthday, as a "non-present present," I’d like to present him with the things I wish I could give my dad for his birthday:

Video of volleyball.
You often hear stories about your parents when they were close to your age, and some of them really stick.

One I heard recently about my dad was when he and my mom and several of their French Quarter neighbors all played volleyball in a park in the quarter.

They played every week, much like I play kickball, and my mom said my dad was hilarious and lighthearted and made everyone laugh during the game.

When they’d change sides with the other team, usually people would slap hands as they passed, but sometimes our dad would joke, “Don’t touch the losers!’” she recalls.

We all genuinely laughed at that, some 40 years after the fact.

I wish I had a video or pictures of that, and I’m sure he does too. So I’d like to give him that for his birthday.

I’ll just keep having to remind him about it so he can picture it himself.    

I'd bottle my memories. 
Harry Potter nerd alert – do y’all know that PENSIVE ("pen-seeve") that’s in Professor Dumbledore’s office, where he can extract memories with his wand and keep them inside the watery substance?

And then anyone can put their head in the pensive, and re-live that memory exactly as if they were that person, at that moment?

Well, I’d like to give my dad all my pensive moments from when my friends – many of his former students – have told me how awesome he was as a person and teacher.

I tell him about these comments, but I'd like him to hear it for himself...uh, as me...

He was so so so well-loved by the people he taught, there should be a medal. 

In fact, this past Monday I ran into an old friend who reminded me again that my dad was her favorite teacher of all time and she would sneak into his study hall and actually enjoy math.

Our own newspaper
I'd say 95 percent of the reason I'm a journalist is because of my dad. 

He’s a former journalist, a former photojournalist and current volunteer editor of many of my own articles before they’re published in the newspaper. 

There’s a special bond over the craft among journalists, and I am constantly calling my dad bouncing ideas off him, freaking out about anytime anyone ever has a problem with something that was printed in the paper.

When I had the dream of starting my own newspaper (well, now website, you computer-obsessed people), I envisioned my dad as the editor-in-chief looking over people’s articles, writing humorous columns and having his picture in the paper every week. 

Oh, and getting paid for it.

I actually had this hilarious idea that since he’s a mathematician, he could have a “math for blondes” column, like explain how to easily calculate percentages. 

“Dear. Mr. Frank, This shirt is $20 and its 25 percent off. How do I figure this out?”

Basically, I’d repeat all the questions I ask him about math.

When I win the lottery, I’m going to make this happen.

Until then, dad, please accept the book review you wrote of the Y’at Dictionary. It was hilarious, and published today on on page 6. Best I can do at the moment.

Me shrinking to the size of a seven-year-old 
Ok, this is sort of one of those, I know it’s your birthday, but this is really a present for me, too, thing, but I wish I could shrink to the size of my seven-year-old self, and then when my dad would come home from a long business trip, I could run to the door as fast as I could and jump in his arms and he’d pick me up.

I remember never being so happy to see someone, and I’d like to pen-seeve that memory, too, please.

And I wish I could be so small that when I’d get tucked into bed, my dad could stretch me out by one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, like a stretch Armstrong toy.

That was the best stretch ever.

Ugh, now I need to find a giant with a five-foot-long arm span. 
(Hagrid???)

I'd also like to be seven and have him read me Italian Folktales as a bedtime story. With voices.

My present would be to go back to that time, I hope he'd like it, too.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!!!! I hope these non-presents are better than an iron cowboy clock with twirling lasso.

But honestly, there really is no present I could give to my dad today that could properly sum up how much he means to me. 

I could not be the person I am today without you dad!! 

So thank YOU. 

You’ve been the best present ever. :)





-Jenny

1 comment:

  1. Ahh this post reminded me so much of my dad. When I was a kid I defaulted to the tie present too! And then...as yours did, mine stopped wearing ties.

    I think that when you have an amazing dad, there will never be any kind of present that can sum up how much they mean to you. I pretty much default to a sappy card about how much I appreciate him. Seems to work!

    Happy birthday to your dad!

    ReplyDelete

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