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Best Father's Day gifts come from the heart

Posted on June 14, 2021

OpinionColumnsLocal news

kripley@springhopeenterprise.com

Ken Ripley

Ken Ripley

Next Sunday is Father’s Day, the companion holiday to the much more celebrated Mother’s Day in May. Throughout the country, men with children will either look forward to or brace themselves for how those children will decide to honor them.

It’s a given that a great majority of fathers will receive at least some kind of card, most likely humorous since simple, honest sentiment can come across to the dads as “mushy” — unless, of course, it comes from a daughter, from whom every feminine “I love you, Daddy” is a treasure to be hoarded. Humor is a widely recognized delivery vehicle that allows men to convey love without feeling vulnerable or “weak.”

Mothers can at least seem easier to shop for on their annual day of recognition. They get cards, too, the more sentimental — and expensive — the better. I think most of us share at least some suspicion that the two parental holidays were created long ago and are definitely hyped now by greeting card companies like Hallmark. But you can also give moms candy and flowers, jewelry and clothes, candles and perfumes, and other such easily accessible and relatively affordable items that really don’t go over well with men.

Dads usually aren’t into frills and “useless” stuff that sits around the house. Men, on average, may appreciate and certainly need clothes, but don’t get excited by a new shirt or pair of socks. Power tools or outdoor gear can pique their interest, but a lot of men’s stuff is too big or too expensive for the normal Father’s Day token gift.

“Hey, Dad, here’s a new motorboat. Happy Father’s Day” would be definitely beyond the normal. So, fathers still get a lot of socks and ties from their children, along with “greatest dad ever” mugs, all well-intentioned but suffering from a shortage of options and imagination.

Online shopping has definitely expanded the horizons for Father’s Day gifts, making available possibilities our forebears never imagined. Of course, technology is not always the solution. If socks don’t warm your heart as much as your feet, for instance, why would you appreciate one gift I saw online — an ongoing subscription where “each month, a funky pair of crew or no-show socks will arrive at his door”?

History lovers, and those who don’t get much mail, might appreciate a present my wife gave me for Christmas — a monthly subscription for three, six or more months where the recipient receives a monthly or even weekly letter containing copies of history’s “most fascinating documents,” with additional supplementary information about them. I enjoyed them and others might, too.

Too many of us, I believe, have “too much stuff” and don’t need more things to stuff on shelves and forget. But there are many intangible gifts we can give that bring tangible pleasure, even if it’s only briefly. I’ve had a star named after my wife, for real, and she’s invested in the legitimate but also functionally useless awarding to me of the title “Lord” available through British common law.

Last year, she gave me a “title” to thousands of acres of land on the moon, giving me a head start in any lunar housing craze. I thought it particularly entertaining to observe two companies duking it out legally over which of them had the legitimate claim to sell property on the moon — when the real answer, of course, is neither of them. But such gag gifts are a fun way to please someone else and an inexpensive alternative for holiday mainstays.

The real point of all this, though, is that nothing we can give our fathers and mothers is as important as making it clear to them, even if it’s just on one day, how much we deeply appreciate what they do for us and how much we really do love them.

I think it’s in our genetic code that we tend to take our parents for granted, or even resent them, as we grow up. The acrimony, conflicts and even failures of daily life within families can also weaken or break entirely our relationship bonds, which can make one day for mothers or fathers bitterly ironic. Families whose members truly love each other, parents or children, are blessed — and taking advantage of the holiday rituals to express our gratitude, however artificial the moment, is an act of grace we can show to each other and ourselves.

My life has been such that I won’t ever get a Father’s Day card. We’ve hosted exchange students and others, been mentors and advisers to countless teenagers, but never had kids of our own. That’s our loss.

But I did have a father, a larger than life military officer who loved his children fiercely and fully, who shaped his oldest son indelibly in so many ways, and whose death in 1997 left a hole in my heart that has yet to heal fully all these years later.

I miss him. I would give anything, anything, this Father’s Day for more chance to hug his neck and tell him, “Happy Father’s Day.”

Children, hug your fathers on Sunday and tell them you love them, however imperfect they may be. Fathers, use the day to also let your children know how much you love them too.

Father’s Day may only be a Hallmark moment, but even this moment is a shared gift to be cherished and long remembered.

Ken Ripley, a Spring Hope resident, is The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus. Email him at kripley@springhopeenterprise.com.

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