Ah, Father’s Day. Some treat it with disdain, lumping it in with so-called “Hallmark holidays,” those disingenuous occasions foisted upon us by greeting card companies. I can understand how some would feel that way, and in some ways I do, too. We don’t need someone to tell us when to appreciate certain people in our lives, and we certainly don’t want to send a card if we don’t mean it.
I don’t see the problem with giving extra attention to a person we already treasure. I’ve decided to give a detailed account of my Father’s Day 2011 experience, to help uncover whether it’s a Hallmark holiday or something more.
I rolled over several times, sleeping only in short bursts beyond 6 a.m. We had decided to stop shouting across the house, so I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and texted my wife. “Please send Benjamin in here.”
Shortly, the bedroom door opened. “Happy Father’s Day!” Benjamin said, almost singing it.
He walked over to the bed, wearing a Star Wars clone trooper costume he had used two or three Halloweens ago. I reached out both arms for a hug. “I can’t lean over,” he said. “There’s a rip in the butt of my costume and I don’t want to make it bigger.” He made a half turn. “See the tape?”
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I didn’t see it, but I laughed and leaned up to wrap him in my arms and squeeze him.
We wandered out to the kitchen, where my wife held a work rag made from an old white t-shirt, large black splotches dotting its soft cotton. On the counter top next to the sink lay a few silver rings, some clearly in need of attention. “You’re working hard,” I said.
She pulled a ring from the rag between her fingers. “Look at this,” she said.
I went through my usual morning kitchen routine — grinding my coffee beans, eating a bowl of cereal — and caught up on Facebook while Shannon shined and Benjamin beamed. Life was good.
Benjamin walked over and set a light saber’s hilt next to my computer mouse. “Come on, Daddy, let’s play Star Wars.”
We did. I lunged, he parried, and we both used the force. The spinning ceiling fan caught its fair share of accidental blows.
The boy and I have made a trip to the doughnut shop one morning each weekend, just us, since he was about two years old. This time, I needed a shower and Benjamin asked if Shannon could go get the treats and bring them back. I felt strange supporting the idea, given that it had become such a strong father-son tradition, but Father’s Day wasn’t about doing what normally was done. Shannon gladly took off while I headed in to start my ablutions.
I emerged from the bedroom, clean and clean-shaven, ready to take on the day. Benjamin played with Legos on the living room floor while Shannon read something on her laptop. On the kitchen island sat a gift bag with colorful tissue paper protruding out the top.
I approached the gift. “Now, it’s nothing special,” Shannon said.
Downplaying it so I’ll be more surprised, I thought. Clever.
I pulled the top layer of tissue paper from the bag to reveal… two packages of men’s underwear.
So, it’s come down to this. I didn’t get the dreaded tie, but I got briefs, I thought. I recently had expressed a desire to move away from the white variety, so this gift of dark-colored private wear was entirely topical. But, still, underwear?
“Thanks! These are great!” I said. It was not a lie; I’m a sucker for “new.”
I opened the cards — one lovingly made by Benjamin using crayons, the other purchased last-minute by my lovely wife. Each conveyed a sweet sentiment. “Thanks. Great cards,” I said.
Father’s Day was not about gifts, but about being recognized. The thing was, I had not felt neglected up to that point, so they really didn’t need to do anything special to make me feel loved.
Shannon said it was my choice — home-cooked meal or dining out, for lunch or supper. I chose dining out for lunch, at a great local Mexican street-style restaurant called Petra. Sadly, a quick look at their web site revealed that they’re closed on Sundays. Shannon found a coupon for another reasonably-priced local Mexican place, Mexi-Go, and off we went.
I prefer a table with chairs, rather than a booth, and we were seated at the table nearest the bar and the kitchen. Benjamin tuned out all else to focus on a few Star Wars Legos characters he had brought, and Shannon and I enjoyed the conversation. After nearly 19 years, neither of us lacks words.
The food was just okay, but on the way out the door I noticed the way the sunlight poured into the front windows and onto a decorative water fountain. I insisted we go back in, where I set my camera on a windowsill and set the timer before re-joining the family. It turned out pretty well, I thought, considering that I had no way to see exactly what my trusty Canon S95 was going to capture. Much better, in fact, than any picture taken by wait staff.
Back home we relaxed and got ready for a moment I had looked forward to for at least a year — watching The Princess Bride with Benjamin. Perhaps because of the two main words in its title, it probably sounded a bit feminine to a little boy. For whatever reason, he never wanted to watch it with me, so I decided that his viewing it would be my Father’s Day gift.
“I’ll get the DVD and put it in. Then you can get it cued up while I start the popcorn,” I said as I headed for the DVD cabinet.
I opened it, but did not see the movie where it should be. “Where is it?” I said.
“It’s in there, where it should be,” Shannon said.
I looked closer. In the DVD’s place was a thin, translucent blue case. I pulled it out. “Hey, you got it on Blu-Ray for me!” I exclaimed and looked over at Shannon, busy with iPhone solitaire on the couch.
She looked up from the phone and smiled. Since we met we both tried to sneak in those little surprises, preferably on the heels of mild disappointment, whenever possible. It was one of my all-time favorite movies, and now it would show its brilliance on our plasma TV.
I made my homemade, stove-popped popcorn and we crunched while the whole gang — Vizzini, Westley, Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik romped and swashbuckled their way through Gilder and Florin and the Fire Swamp, the evil Prince Humperdinck at their heels.