Happy Father’s Day: Try Not to Kill Dad

Here we are, the week before Father’s Day, and I decided to make a shopping […]

Sarah Condon / 6.15.19

Here we are, the week before Father’s Day, and I decided to make a shopping trip for my husband to my favorite local gift shop. It is the kind of place that I could walk into and find five pairs of earrings I can’t live without and a tray for my work desk that says, “MAY THE BRIDGES I BURN LIGHT THE WAY.”

Often when I go shopping for my husband I come home with only things for me.

Today I head over to what seems like a massive table full of options for “Dad.” Except I quickly notice that there is a pattern of sameness forming. First of all, I can only buy my husband so many fancy handkerchiefs. In our humid city, he definitely uses them. But just last week he showed me that the handkerchief he was carrying was one I had monogrammed by hand our first year of marriage. I miss that Sarah. She was so full of love and craft. The next options I saw were all food-related. BBQ spice rubs, BBQ sauce jars, and lots and lots of cookies with hardened sugar frosting that say things like, “I could Dad all day.” In other words, I’m asking my husband to cook for the entire family outside during Texas summer and throwing in a hard old sugar cookie to snack on.

I need a whole new paragraph to talk about the alcohol paraphernalia. Perhaps it is because I was raised by a father who was raised by a father who was an alcoholic. And so my own father never imbibed. Or maybe it is because I watch my own husband have a single glass of chardonnay and promptly ask me at 9pm if I want to go to bed early because he is so tired. But this alcoholic Father’s Day madness is crazy to me. How many secret flashlight flasks does a grown man need? Did they just move the college graduate gifts over to the Father’s Day section? I stood there and thought about the dear men in my life who are recovering alcoholics and wondered exactly what Father’s Day shopping must feel like for their spouses. Overwhelming is my guess.

To be fair, Mother’s Day has its own genre of gift-giving. Jewelry, flowers, and brunch are official protocol in our house. And I love it. But while Mother’s Day gifts can be rather materialistic, Father’s Day gifts appear to be trying to kill Dad. Heart attack or liver cirrhosis? Its up to you, Pops!

I could buy him books but he is swimming in them as it is. I could buy him clothes but we have enough of those. I could have the kids make him a cute project but let’s be real, it’s 36 hours and counting. I am well-aware that some of you will feel compelled to leave me tips for gift-buying in the comments section. We all have that urge to be the ones with the answers. But I’m actually not sure you could tell me what to buy my husband. Because you do not know him.

And this is the thing that strikes me about Father’s Day. Unless we send some perfunctory bourbon-filled bowtie with a golf ball pattern, we actually have to know what the men in our lives love. Which means we have to know them.

I think there is a great urge to not do that very thing.

Culturally speaking, Father’s Day is a silent dinner guest at the table. He is not really invited to church. And we could care less what his day was like. And yet Father’s Day quietly sits there.

We actually do High-Low in our house most nights at dinner. We all go around the table and name the best and worst parts of our day. More often than I would like to admit, I will think that we have done our sharing and my husband will quietly say, “Well, guys, thanks for asking, the best part of my day was….”

We so often talk about men as being hard to get to know, but maybe we just don’t actually want to ask them the questions. What do you love about the world? Who is your favorite artist? What does this music make you thing of? What do you love about football/basketball/baseball?

Or more pointedly, was your day hard? Is your job feeling impossible? Do you need a hug?

After Hurricane Harvey we were given a grant to get away from Houston. We decided we would fly the entire family to the Pacific Northwest. And we were gone for almost two weeks. It was a marvelous trip filled with everyone’s demands but my husband’s. He was quiet except for one thing. He wanted to see the Chihuly exhibit in Seattle.

If you have not seen the magnificent, brilliantly colored, almost-still but in-motion artwork of Dale Chihuly, you have not seen all of the beauty that is possible in the world. And as we entered each space he would just stand there, mystified. Our children were 6 and 3. And I remember hushing them in a corner as they were narrowly about to knock over an actual glass sculpture and whisper-yelling, “YOUR DADDY LOVES THIS AND YOU WILL BEHAVE SO HE CAN ENJOY IT.”

After all of the protecting and thoughtfulness and impossible work he does for our family, it felt good that I could be the one to do that for him, just for a moment, so that he might get to enjoy something he loves.

This year he’s getting glass blowing lessons. And I love that I know him just well enough to know that he would love this gift. I am hoping they won’t be teaching the fathers in the room how to make flasks.

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3 responses to “Happy Father’s Day: Try Not to Kill Dad”

  1. Duo says:

    Things change as age happens: but we Fathers Are All Sons: https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/sons/

  2. Sam says:

    Thanks Sarah for another wonderful read. I received cards from my children that praised me for being a good dad as they were growing up and I appreciated their sentiments and was moved by their memories but I never look forward to Fathers Day because I am reminded of all of my shortcomings, failures, and iniquities.
    I sometimes see the effects of over-parenting in their lives and am saddened but on Fathers Day they choose to remember the things that they enjoyed with me and I am blessed. What’s more is that I am reminded that I am an heir of one who washes away ALL of my iniquities and remembers my sins no more and it prompts me to want to do the same.

  3. DLE says:

    Yes. Thanks, Sarah. The part about getting to know what dad really enjoys is dead on. Most men want that.

    I was on a business trip to Seattle not long ago, and at SeaTac airport two people wheeled a man in a wheelchair up behind me for the TSA check, and I turned to see a frail Dale Chihuly in the chair. Here was one of my favorite artists in the world right behind me. I was startled. I could only manage a smile for him. No adoration at the moment. Would I bother him if I talked with him? I decided the raging extrovert in me needed to stifle it. So I said nothing, just smiled.

    Will always regret that decision. Let the people who have enriched your life and mine know it.

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