Jerry Davich: On this Father’s Day, give the gift of memories
JERRY DAVICH June 15, 2013 11:22PM
Updated: July 17, 2013 6:13AM
Today, on Father’s Day 2013, I offer you a few thoughts on a “holiday” that many of us treat as an obligation, not a celebration.
What should we get Dad, right? We have to get him something, we tell ourselves. But do we really? Should we? Or is an obligatory gift even worse than no gift at all, as I believe.
The average American will spend about $120 on their father this year, according to a new study that must have surveyed liars. I mean, $120? Did you spend that much on dear old dad today?
I didn’t, but then again my father is dead so that could be a factor. However, on one Father’s Day after his death, roughly a quarter century ago, I visited his gravesite and dropped off a pack of his favorite cigars. Muriel Coronellas, if I recall.
To this day, whenever I get a whiff of a cigar — any cigar — I immediately think of my father, Joe Davich. He and cigars went together like a lighter and a pack of Pall Malls. True, it’s an odd sort of Pavlovian response I have, especially considering that smoking probably led to his death, but that’s how memories work sometimes.
For those of you whose father is still alive, does today mean anything profound to you? Or to your dad? Is it a wonderful reason to spend special time together? Or do you roll your eyes, let out a heavy sigh, and do your best to avoid another baseless argument with your old man? Especially on “his” day. Ugh.
In general, I think fathers get back from their kids what they have given their kids, especially when they were younger. If fathers failed to find time for their kids in their youth, they often fail to receive their kid’s time as adults.
Call it karma. Call it payback. Call it human nature.
When my kids were younger — in the obligatory gift phase — the last thing I wanted from them was a Father’s Day gift they felt pressured to produce. I still feel this way.
Instead, I always savored any gift that was homemade, not store-bought or generic. In fact, I still have a few of these handmade gifts saved to someday relish in my senior years.
‘I’ll always remember’
My favorite “Father’s Day” gift didn’t come on that day, but it embodied to me what being a dad is all about — creating memories with our kids. It was a gift from my daughter, Ashley, in 2006, when she was about to turn 22.
“I’ll always remember when you would take Josh and me to Dogwood Park and we would play ‘Fireball’ on the big red slide,” she wrote in a one-page letter titled, “I’ll Always Remember.”
That letter is now framed and resting on a crowded shelf in my living room. I peek at it often, remembering her remembering me, and us.
“I’ll always remember waiting up for you after you got home from work, and Josh and I would sneak downstairs while you ate your leftover dinner and watched the sports updates.”
“I’ll always remember when you would come to eat lunch with me at school and then play games outside with Josh and my friends on the playground during recess.”
Well, you get the idea.
“Dad, I will always remember these cherished moments because YOU are the one who made them special,” she wrote in conclusion. “I don’t want these memories to go unappreciated, so this is my form of repayment to prove how much I admire your fatherly characteristics.”
I share this letter with you, seven years after receiving it, to illustrate my point to younger fathers on their special day. To those fathers who routinely or habitually say they’re “too busy” to spend a few minutes with their kids. Or “too tired” after work. Or “too annoyed” by their kids. Instead, they find an escape from fatherhood, whether it’s via work, women, booze, drugs or, our most dangerous vice, rationalizations.
Men are experts at the deceptive art of rationalization. I call it deceptive because these absentee fathers are only deceiving themselves at the end of the day, or the end of their life. Most kids wise up soon enough to the chronic lies, excuses, and alibis.
Again, what to get dad today? First, here is what not to get him, at least this year.
Skip the joke gift, such as a strip club lap dance, a knitter’s class, or a T-shirt that says “BECAUSE I SAID SO.”
Resist giving him another necktie, which screams, “I have no idea what to give you, and I’m too lazy to think about it.”
Take a year off from getting him more cologne or aftershave, lovingly reminding him that he can smell better and you’ll help him do so.
Forgo the novelty gift that made you laugh at the gift store but will gather only dust for years to come.
And do your best to avoid rushing into a store this morning to join what seems like the entire population of North Dakota in the greeting card aisle to buy the last-resort gift: A lame Father’s Day card, written wonderfully and poetically by a faceless wonk who has never met your dad. How touching.
Instead, give your pop something he can take to his grave, even if a fire destroys his house and his fireplace mantle. Give him a memory. A fresh one, today, with “Father’s Day 2013” invisibly yet indelibly stamped on it.
Go for a walk with him. Take a car cruise. Go fishing. Go shopping. Play ball. Break bread. Break the ice. Break through to your former relationship if you’re at odds with him these days. But break through.
Today is the perfect excuse to do so, the ideal rationale to dispel or address all those earlier rationalizations. It doesn’t have to be all “Cats in the Cradle” cliche, but it doesn’t have to be the same old dogfight either.
Today, whether you’re a dad or a kid, create a momentous memory or a memorable moment together. If such tender moments embarrass you, blame it on Father’s Day.
Connect with Jerry via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.