Friday, November 24th, 2017

The gifts of Father’s Day


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Jun 17, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

The ultimate Father’s Day

Simple pleasures can get complicated

Father’s Day is approaching, and with it a game of 20 questions for which I have no right answer. Every year my wife, the lovely Doreen from Waukesha, invariably asks, “What would you like for Father’s Day this year?”

As any husband knows, my first reaction to such a question is not usually my best. “How about a quiet afternoon? Just me, the hammock, William Shakespeare, a martini, some of my favorite music, out in the backyard without the disturbance of children.”

This does not meet with approval. For one thing, it’s hard to gift-wrap. Two, as my wife pointed out icily, Father’s Day is not an excuse to avoid the children, it is to be shared with the children.

I also suspect she noticed that she was not included in the hammock, just my buddy Bill.

“OK,” I replied. “I see your point.” Which is husband code-speak for, “I am not really going to get my wish, and making a case for it will result in disharmony in the castle.”

I then suggested a copy of Christopher Hitchens’ latest book, a memoir. Hitchens is an iconoclastic writer who was the last Devil’s advocate employed by the Vatican. Anyone who can speak to the pope against the sainthood of Mother Teresa sounds like good reading to me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think a book quite fit the idea of something “exciting” for the children to watch me open. Also, a noted atheist author is not what my wife wants me to explain to my Catholic-school-enrolled children.

In the following days, I left open a copy of men’s clothing catalog to the page with a desired shirt and tie. After all, what is Father’s Day without the possibility of a giftwrapped tie?

I also mumbled something about the lawnmower. Oh yes, it’s broken and needs replacement.

Somehow the prohibition on buying household items for special occasions only works one way. If I bought my wife a new vacuum cleaner for say, Valentine’s Day, no matter how much we needed one, it would be terribly underappreciated.

However, Father’s Day is the occasion for the husband to receive all sorts of useful household items. There is a reason the various hardware stores look forward to Father’s Day. I suspect they must spend an extra hour polishing the socket wrenches to make them look shiny enough to catch the eyes of wives with children in tow looking for that special gift for dad.

Not that I complain about such a practice. After all, you should be under no illusion that I am in anyway a household handyman, so any tool that comes into my presence will inevitably inspire an “ooh” from me, followed by a “I wonder how this works.”

Sometimes the tool is even a less-than-subtle hint. “Chain saw?” I once asked my wife. “What would I need that for?”

“To cut down the pine tree branches reaching over the sidewalk, to trim the crabapple tree along the driveway, to clean up those junk trees in the corner of the lot, to get rid of that old brush pile … ”

Past Father’s Days also inspired questions from friends and colleagues, many of whom are still childless.

“So, are you planning anything exciting for Father’s Day?”

“Why, yes,” I wanted to reply. “I’ll be spending my day in a hammock enjoying the peace and quiet of my backyard, my favorite music on the radio, my favorite drink nearby, and my favorite book in hand.”

The illusion would be good for them and make them want to have children of their own. Instead, I told them the truth.

“I will be awoken by my children far too early for me to be coherent. Then I will be led into the living room where, before my first cup of coffee, I will be handed presents to open. Then I will get dressed and spend the remainder of the day doing yard work.”

“Is that really it?”

“Well,” I admitted, “When my wife and children tell me that they love me and wish me a happy Father’s Day, it really makes the day perfect, no matter what I else I do that day.”

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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