Monday, June 05, 2006

What I want for Father's Day . . .

I never would have expected this, not in a million years, but I have become someone who is hard to shop for. On gift-giving occasions, my kids ask me what I'd like, and I am unable to provide them with the comfort of a straight, enthusiastic answer. "Oh, I don't know . . .", I start, and the kids know that I am racking my brain trying to come up with something that will allow them to feel like they've met their duty, and which will improve my life at least a modicum. And I usually fail.

While I live a relatively modest life (wildly luxurious, I know, to most of the world and much of the United States, but rather cramped compared to those I run with), I've hit a stage in my life where I tend to satisfy my own cravings when it comes to items under $20 or $25, the reasonable price-range for college students scraping by on loans and scholarships. If I really want a new CD, I'll buy it. Likewise, ours is a book-loving family, so I don't hesitate to invest in a book I want to read.

Really, at this point in my life, it's darned hard for material goods to have much of an impact. We have the furniture we need. While I would love to go out and buy a new set of golf clubs, we all know that the reason I shoot 103 at Minor Park has nothing to do with equipment. And nobody buying gifts for me is in a position to be laying down that kind of money, anyhow.

So, for the past several giving cycles, I've been kind of a drag - particularly for my children with their constrained finances.

No more. I recently had the opportunity to listen to a wise man speak about giving, and about how giving should not spring from guilt or negative feelings, but should come from a spirit of discernment of positivity. And gifts should not be accepted from a selfish spirit of seeing one's own needs met, but from an attitude of accepting what is being shared, and openness to the spirit behind the gift.

As I look back over some of the memorable gifts I have received, a couple have been "wow" gifts, but most have resonated with me because of the message behind them. Ali, a few years ago, came back from a trip to Atlanta with a Coca-Cola golf ball for me. It was just one ball, not even a sleeve, and I don't remember whether it was a Titleist or a Topflight or some lesser brand, but I do remember how it made me feel to realize that she, while surrounded by new friends in an exciting new place, thought about her old man and wanted to make me happy.

One gift that still brings a special smile to Robin and me both is a cheaply made porcelain eagle that even the crappiest flea market would probably toss out rather than display. But Sam gave that gift to our entire family one year, and was tremblingly excited to do so, because it represented a memorable trip our family had taken to Eagle Days at Squaw Creek, when our car broke down and we had to spend the night in a truck-stop hotel. That porcelain eagle is one of the most precious items in our house.

A typical gift is something for me. I need a new socket set, or a new tie, and the giver goes out and meets that need.

A great gift, though, is something that signifies the "us" between the giver and the recipient. It is Ali demonstrating that she carried me in her heart even during an exciting time miles away from me. A golf ball. It is Sam, at seven years old, shaking with excitement about what he saw as a beautiful sculpture representing a close family time. In both cases, the gift would have been a trifling token without significance if it had been received without being open to seeing what was being given. Receiving requires discernment and openness as much as giving does.

What do I want for Father's Day? I want you to think about me, and about us. If you choose a book, or a cd, or a tie, or a golf ball, that means something to you about us, I know I'll love it.

Save the Pings for when you start making big money. I'll wait.


Anonymous travelingal said...

Your story was almost a poem of love for your children. I really enjoyed it.

6/05/2006 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it was beautiful actually. Beautiful.. gives me better insight ;) hope all is well! thanks for all great thoughts

6/05/2006 9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

damn, i hate it when you make me want to cry! but your post touched me so deeply...geez, we love our children so fiercely, sometimes it hurts. i hope you get what you really want on Father's Day--which is something that will make your heart smile more than anything! thanks for making my heart smile too! :-)

6/05/2006 11:08 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

I've never wanted anything for Father's Day other than some "quality time" with my daughter. A movie. World's of Fun Day. Miniature Golf. Just hanging out. Doesn't matter.

I know she love's me. I don't need her to prove it.

But you have inspired me to start a new tradition.

From now on, Father's Day, my birthday, Christmas, whatever...when she asks me what I want, my answer will be "I want you to do something nice for someone." Anonymously.

Doesn't have to be big and life changing. Just something nice. Anything.

That will make me happy.

6/05/2006 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Dan -

Well said. I almost take back what I wrote above.

XO -

We agree on something. I've done that, on occasion (but not enough, true). It is wonderful.

And I wish all you Dads out there a very blessed Father's day.

6/06/2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger pomegranate said...

jesus, dan. serious cry factor on this. I hope I can carry this out.

6/07/2006 1:21 AM  

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