Monday, December 10, 2007
ghosts of christmas presents
a week or so ago, over on the perhapanauts forum, my pal, matt (wieringo), started a post called "best and worst christmas gifts". and i cringed. what an excellent, excellent topic! what a great way to get into the spirit of the season with friends--and we are all friends here, right...?--sharing happy memories of childhood christmases and holidays past? i had a wonderful childhood (many say i haven't left it yet...) and i have LOADS of memories of some of the great loot santa brought each year! magic tricks and spy kits, creepy crawlers and incredible edibles, toy trucks and bikes and a krazy kar!! (my brother got a big wheel...i callled it a "big deal", that krazy kar was ass!) cool board games and drawing toys and comic books! and later stereos and albums and video games...
it's been a wonderful life...!
but matt (wisely) covered all the bases, and while i could fill up the list in the "best gift given" and "best gift received" categories, and had no problem finding one or two to put in my own "worst gift received" spot, the one that made me cringe was..."worst gift given".
man, my dad was so hard to buy for.
dads are all hard because they are more impulsive that any other living creature. when they see something they want or need, they buy it. right there. on the spot. no waiting, no considering. sold. done. my dad was this way. so was yours.
so at christmas time, it was futile.
so hard to buy for.
oh, we would ask him what he wanted...
and he would tell us.
the same thing.
socks and underwear.
i always wanted to get him something really GREAT! something he'd love! something that would surprise him and be just what he wanted but hadn't said so. something that would surprise him and make him light up.
okay, i'm sure that, on some level, i was seeking approval. we all do at that age. my dad was not the most demonstrative guy in the world, having grown up in the john wayne era, and i was a young--some might say sensitive--kid trying to wow this guy who did SO MUCH for us, whom i loved more than i could say. i was so sure that just the right present would make him see how i felt, how much i appreciated him. and so i slowly and systematically sabotaged myself trying to find the one present--the key!!--that would unlock the door to my dad's buried emotional side. year after year, i struggled to find that treasure, giving my dad bizarre and unneeded tools--that long rod with the button on the end and a little claw on the other to pick up things that have fallen behind the workbench--stupid t-shirts (my dad never wore t-shirts) and books that he wouldn't read. my frustration eventually became anger and as the days til christmas ticked away, i would become mad at my dad for being such a tough nut to crack...
this went on for years.
in final fury and exasperation (i was only 14 or so and a rebellious teen after all...), for christmas of '76, i bought my dad the most horrible gift i've ever given to anyone, the one that STILL makes me wince, the single most popular poster of all time. i bought my dad the farrah fawcett poster.
(i don't know why. i wasn't hot for her. i mean, she was gorgeous and that bathing suit was just great and at that point i had never seen nipples in real life, so...)
and my dad....my dad never watched the show, never made comments about her, or ANYONE on tv or in movies, never even LOOKED at another woman besides my mother. he did not have calendars or posters in his workshop. WHAT WAS I DOING?!?!?
to psychoanalyze a bit, a shrink might tell me that, especially as a young man trying to bond with his father, i DID become enraged and tried to hurt him with a present the total opposite of who and what he was. or maybe i was trying to tell him, see, i'm a man now and we should like these things and talk about it. or i don't know...
i was embarrassed and upset by the gift even as i was handing it to him. this man who had worked so hard to provide for us and i was giving him a gift that was going to make us all uncomfortable. but what could i do...? he opened it. he said, "oh" and "well, thank you." and set it aside to move onto something else, something more traditional and acceptable. i felt sick to my stomach for the next hour or so. i'm feeling it now, again, as i relive the memory.
one of my deepest regrets. not for what the present was, but for what it represented.
but we do these things.
the next year, i bought him some socks and underwear.
he was delighted.
i'm grown up now, or so they tell me. i've learned to respect and understand my father's feelings as an adult and now as a friend. he has grown too and we can talk about these things now and both of us have learned to express our feelings about each other and to each other without embarrassment or awkwardness. with love. my mom's passing two years ago has now made us even closer and i'm not trying to win his approval with that perfect christmas gift anymore. i'm past that.
this year we're gettin' him a big screen tv. : )
don't tell him...
smell ya later!