A Father's Journal / The official Father's Day what-not-to-buy guide
Only a few shopping days left `til Fathers Day, and as I have done in the past, I will give you a little cheat sheet. Cut this handy guide out and bring it with you to the stores. I am qualified to speak for dad. I am a father, my father was a father and so was my grandfather. My paternal lineage goes as far back as to the moment the first Lawlor sprouted opposable thumbs. This qualifies me to speak for all fathers everywhere about what they want.
This really is a "what not to get" list as opposed to a "what to buy" list. Dad does not really want anything from you. He has always said "save your money" and he means it. He wants nothing. He wants some peace and quiet. If he has a boat or kayak, let him go out on the water, or allow him to take a nap.
Since no one listens to dad, I will give you a definitive list of things not to buy. Things I or other fathers I know have received. In years past I have highlighted gargoyles, loud ties and books on witchcraft. Dad still does not want those, and here is what else he doesn't want in 2011.
Really bright clothing. I just received a neon hoodie. Dad does not want neon clothes. Two exceptions: If he bicycles in the Tour de France, or likes to pick up trash along the highway. Otherwise dad doesn't like bright colors, and that court-ordered highway detail was a long time ago. Before you were born.
Self improvement books. Dad is not going to change. If you would like to save the world, work on yourself first. When you achieve "self actualization," then you can share your wisdom with dad. Perhaps in a short email. Something like "Dad, I am perfect. I can now help you" would be nice.
Shot glasses or mugs from places he has never been. How many things does he need that say Las Vegas? Or a T-shirt that I received a few Christmases ago that said Oradell Large Animal Hospital. Also avoid even unadorned shot glasses. They remind dad of the reason he had to do that highway work years ago.
Aqua Velva or anything that smells. I know it's popular to look at your man, then look at the TV, then look at your man, or whatever the ad says. How about really look at dad. Does he look like he wants you to buy it?
What to get. Dad wants very little. Let him take a nap. If you are under 14, make him a gift. Over 14, just get him a card that shows you were thinking about him.
Gift cards. If you must get him something, get him a gift card that shows you were listening to him the other 364 days. He wants to feel he is getting through. For one day pretend he is getting through. So buy a gift card to a place he enjoys. Hardware stores, book, or electronic stores are OK, as long as he frequents those places.
Gift certificates to places he would hate are not acceptable. Did dad say he wanted to go to a spa, or get something pierced? Has he ever mentioned multiple piercings in a positive way? No. Then don't get him gift certificates for that.
Even if your dad has passed on, gift cards may still work. Parishioners at St Anthony's Catholic Church on South Pine Creek put Stop and Shop grocery gift cards in the collection plate. The church gives them out to aid groups or directly to needy families. According to the pastor they give them out "to people who are truly desperate. It's been a big help to people, especially at the end of the month when food stamps have run out and the food banks are nearly depleted." Don't you think your departed dad would have liked that better than a gargoyle.
Aqua Velva. This may appear schizophrenic, since it is already mentioned on the "don't" list. Growing up, my wife would get her father Aqua Velva every year until she was about 14. To this day she was unsure if he liked it. After my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law was going through his things and found multiple bottles of Aqua Velva.
Laura's parents had moved five times in the 25 years since the last bottle of Aqua Velva was given to him, yet he made sure the Aqua Velva moved with him each time. The family doesn't know if he really liked Aqua Velva or he just cherished them because his daughters gave it to him, and the real reason doesn't matter now.
This weekend I plan to slather on some Aqua Velva, in honor of my late father in law, Jason Becker, then throw a gift card in the collection plate in honor of my late father, Joseph Lawlor, maybe go kayaking with my daughters.
And then take a nap.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Fairfield with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.