Here’s what every smart dad says to the kid before Mother’s Day:
“Pay attention, because this is important. I’ll buy the gifts — candles, some perfume, a book — because I know what scents she likes, and what she likes to read. We’ll have a nice dinner that’s mostly salad vegetables, nicely roasted. No, not roasted salad; roasted vegetables.
(Dad makes mental note to Google “roasted salad,” because maybe Mom would like that.)
“We’ll have a good dessert, even though she’ll only have two bites and give you the rest. Here’s where you come in: I need you to make a card. Yes, I know, you can buy them, but store-bought cards for Mom are for much later, when you’re in your 30s and feel a rush of competing emotions when you decide whether to get the sappy ones with flowery letters or the funny ones that say how awesome and strong she is.
“This is the time for a personal note. Do your best. Make sure to write a few letters backward for that authentic child look. Stick figures are a plus.”
Here’s what every dad says to the kid before Father’s Day:
“Oh, I don’t need anything. You know what, though? I like those dark chocolate Milky Way bars. Can’t find them anywhere. You see one of those, that’ll be fine.”
So, on Father’s Day the kid hands you half a candy bar: “Sorry, but it looked so good!”
You share the rest. And you carry a piece of the candy bar wrapper in your wallet for the rest of your life.
What do you get Dad? A tie? “Here, Dad, the noose of professional obligation!” A pipe? Sure, if it’s 1956. It doesn’t really matter. He’ll love it no matter what it is.
Let me tell you about the screwdriver I gave my dad when I was in junior high. We had shop class, which was a way of figuring out which kid was going to be useful and which was going to get a liberal arts degree.
As a member of the latter group, I failed at every practical project, most notably the Homemade Screwdriver.
I’m not sure why we needed to learn how to make a screwdriver. It’s like a home-ec class teaching kids how to inseminate cows because the recipe calls for milk. Can’t we just ... I don’t know, buy one at the store? But we forged ahead. (That’s a metalworking joke.)
I did not forge enough, though. When my dad used the gift I’d presented him on Father’s Day, the metal was al dente, and it twisted. It was incapable of doing the exact thing it was designed to do.
I wish I’d done a better job. Both my wife and I lost our fathers since the last Father’s Day, and you think a lot about all the stuff you made them endure and all the missed opportunities to tell them how much they meant. What, you said it a lot? Still not enough.
But as dads will tell you, it’s OK. Daughter scrawled “I love you” on a Post-it note about 16 years ago, and it’s been on my desk ever since. And that screwdriver? Well, when I was emptying out my father’s house, I came across his old toolbox, and you know what I found?
Lots of good screwdrivers that worked, that’s what. Pretty sure he tossed the one I gave him. Didn’t fit in a wallet.
He had room for all our pictures, though.