- My dad is not a big reader. I once bought him an Andy Rooney book. He loves 60 Minutes and always chuckled appreciatively when Andy launched into one of his mild tirades, so I thought it was the perfect gift. I'm not sure he ever read it. If he did, he never mentioned it.
- My dad has no hobbies other than incessantly watching Headline News and yelling at the "idiots" on TV.
- My parents have way too much stuff, and I have no desire to add to it, since I will one day have to sort through it.
- Perishable gifts (food) are a bad idea, since my dad is overweight.
- My dad has a very small window of what is "normal". For instance, he thought "The Fellowship of the Ring" was a "little weird". I guess it is, in the grand scheme of things, but it's a fantasy/adventure.
- As a result of 1-5, I do not understand my dad and cannot ever answer the question, "Do you think your dad would like _____?"
The past couple Christmases, birthdays and Father's Days, I've done theater tickets. They fulfill all the criteria above; I just have to be careful with #5. However, this is really more a present for my mom than my dad, because she likes to go out and do stuff and my dad would rather sit home and become one with his recliner. He used to like to go to the Symphony, but that's generally on during the Winter months, and for the past 5 years or so, my parents have spent January and February in Hawaii. It must be so nice to be retired.
For his birthday this year, I hit the jackpot. The Alliance had a show going on called, "Always, Patsy Cline". I can remember being traumatized as a young girl on long car trips with Patsy spinning on the 8-track player, eternally wailing about falling to pieces. Even today, playing that song is a sure way to get me to ball up in the fetal position, hands clamped firmly over my ears, and begin whimpering pitifully. Or screeching unmercifully, depending on my mood.
Anyway, they went to the show, and they had a great time. The tickets were a bit pricey, but hey, they're my parents, and they've dropped a lot of scratch on me over the years. Unfortunately, the ticket price was printed on the tickets. I wasn't looking for any kind of props from the parents for my generosity. I actually wished the price wasn't printed on the tickets at all. However, a very handy side-benefit came from them knowing how much I spent. I have now been told, "No presents for Mother's Day or Father's Day." I, of course, ignored this edict for Mother's Day (although I did just give my mom a hydrangea...fits criteria #3). For Father's Day, though, I just might be an obedient child, since I was warned again on the phone yesterday.
Part of the reason I don't understand my dad, I'm sure, is that I have precious few memories of him from my childhood. I'm not sure whether that's because he travelled a lot when I was small, or because he was good and sick of having girls (I have three sisters...I was supposed to be the boy). He hated coming to my ballet recitals. He hated coming to my choral performances. I think he hated coming to my piano recitals less. That was something he could brag about to others. He never came to see me cheer. Anytime I tried to talk to him about what things were like when he was a kid ("What did you do for fun?"), I would get incomprehensible statements ("Working was fun for me." Schwunh??) All I know is that I don't remember my dad being terribly interested in me until I hit the age where it was time to think about college. He made me apply to nine colleges, and it would have been ten if I had not put my foot down and told him there was no way I was going to Cal Tech. He has never forgiven me for not going to MIT rather than Georgia Tech. Every time he meets someone who has a child who went to MIT, I hear about it.
So here are two Dad memories for you: One bad, one good. The first occurred sometime in high school or junior high. Our report cards at that time would show your actual numerical score in the class. An "A" was 93-100. I don't remember what the "B" range was, because I never got a "B". (Hey, stop throwing those tomatoes! Even though I'm a geek, I did not study all the time. I mean, I'm smart, but I did go to a really easy high school.) Technically I got one "B" in chorus one "nine weeks", but that didn't count because it was also at the end of a semester, and my semester average was an "A". (And the reason why I got the "B" is definitely another blog entry for another day....)
Anyway, I was pretty jazzed about my report card this particular period. I had gotten three 100 averages, and two 99 averages! You gotta admit that's pretty good...I was at least in Algebra by that time. My mom's thrilled! So, I triumphantly present my report card to my dad. What does he say?
"What happened with those 99s?"
Are you kidding me? I later told this story to one of my friends, and he said, "If I came home with a report card like that, my parents would buy me a car!" I got 10 bucks, because at some point (like 8th grade, I think) I found out that my parents gave my older sisters $1 for each "A", or $10 for all "A"s.
Dad memory number two: My dad is a total penny pincher (really, this is going to be a good story, I promise). I have quite a few memories when I was a kid of going to theme parks on vacation, with both of my parents. Remember walking around at a theme park when you were a kid? You would inevitably end up in the "game" section, where hawkers tried to lure you in with seemingly easy feats that would garner you a ginormous stuffed animal. If you were like me, you had spent all day ogling those lucky kids who were skipping around the park, giant animals in tow. All you have to do is knock over these three measly milk bottles! Oh, but wait...the bottles also have to fall all the way off the platform. How often have you seen someone manage that?? Or how about throwing the plastic ring around a bottle neck? There's like a thousand bottles, and it looks like if you just toss the ring blindly into the pit of bottles, it's got to ring one of their necks! Oh, if only the laws of thermodynamics would suspend themselves for a few minutes...but alas, the equal and opposite reaction of those hard plastic rings coming into contact with glass bottles creates more bounce than Tigger on a trampoline!
And then there was the granddaddy of them all: the ring toss. In this one, you had to get a hula hoop around the animal. These animals were even cuter because they weren't impaled on metal hooks on the ceiling. (Of course, they were instead impaled up their backside on a metal rod, but you couldn't see that.) Their heads were still round, and their glassy eyes stared beguilingly at you as they sat, arms outstretched, just begging to be taken home. Ah, those arms. There was the first problem. You swore they were animatronic animals with the way their pudgy limbs would latch onto the hula hoops and keep them from falling down. Because, you see, the hula hoop had to go ALL the way down around the animal. Not only that, it had to make it ALL the way down around the base of the platform on which the stuffed siren sat. And that platform was the exact size that fit in the hula hoop, and not a millimeter smaller. Once again, physics was not your friend, as that hoop would bounce up and catch on a corner of the evil platform, thus leaving your furry friend imprisoned in carnie hell.
Now, my dad being a penny pincher, you might think that there was no way that he would give in to the pleadings of the biggest stuffed animal fan in the world. But you'd be wrong! Yes, my dad would actually attempt to win me an animal! He'd set a certain number of tries, and he would wait until just before we went home, because, as he would tell his whiny child throughout the day, "You don't want to carry that around all day." (Aside from the obvious benefit of being the envy of every other kid in the park, he was probably right.) And, even better, my dad was actually good at it. The most athletic exploits I'd ever seen my dad manage were water-skiing, playing ping-pong and riding the lawn mower around. I guess he figured that, like Sunday school, he'd done enough of that when he was a kid. But with a weird flick of the wrist, he could make that hula hoop lie down in the right place. Usually. We did leave "without" a few times, but I was never really that disappointed. After all, how many huge stuffed animals can you have in one room? I also wouldn't always want the animal that the game featured, because it would be ugly. But my dad would always ask, the first time we passed the booth during the day, "Do you want one of those?" I was very happy with my two giant stuffed raccoons (totally different). Seems like I had another one, too, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was.
Maybe that's why I'm still fond of raccoons today....