Most of my friends growing up didn’t celebrate Father’s Day. I was always curious about that. Who were their dads, exactly, and why didn’t they care? I figured they must have been intellectual types (some of them were) or artists (some of them were) or dads who just had way too many neckties already and didn’t see the point. But in our house, we always celebrated Father’s Day. In fact, it was always kind of a big deal.
Every year, weeks in advance, my brother and I would talk about what to get him. Not what to do — no elaborate parties or secret barbecues — because that wasn’t his style. For him, and for us, Father’s Day was all about the gift. It had to be good. It had to top last year’s, or what we got him for his birthday, or what my mom was planning. We didn’t always succeed in that, copping lots of years to a relatively cheap cigar or an uninspired cookbook. But when we hit, with a blue-and-white polka-dot Tommy Hilfiger tie or a Tanner Goods card case, we really hit. He’d talk about those good ones for days, give us updates months later on the way the leather was wearing or who had complemented him on it most recently.
That’s what the Father’s Day gift was and still is: a real and honest offering, a suggestion that one day we might get a full account, an unabridged story.
The presents were so important, I think, because they did a lot of talking. My dad and I had a pretty normal father-son relationship. I’d even say it was pretty good. Still is. When I was a kid, we talked about as much as we both ever figured we needed to. He was always interested in me and what I was up to, and I guess that’s how it should be. He offered advice and jokes and a few choice anecdotes. But so much of him was a mystery. I knew some things about him; I didn’t ask about others. A man’s secrets and stories — his work, his travels, his life — are his own, after all.
One thing I have always known, and it’s not an insignificant thing, is that my dad likes stuff. He is a connoisseur of shirts and belts and shoes, an admirer of watches and gadgets and wallets. He adores fountain pens. That’s why he likes Father’s Day. And I think that’s why I always liked it too. When my brother and I pooled our money and wandered around the city looking for exactly the right computer case or the perfect pair of colourful socks, we were really looking for a way in.
I think about this now because the older I get, the more I find out about him. Again, I guess that’s how it should be. Long-hidden childhood memories slip out over dinners. Travel stories get fuller, more colorful and real. Every once in a while he’ll even talk about his work, successes and failures both, especially now that I’ve been unwittingly taken into the family business (as much as you can call freelance writing a family business). We’re building toward something — like I’m pretty sure now we have been all along. That’s why I got him something awesome for Father’s Day this year, too. It’s a cool piece of gear, and I’m hoping it’s one of the good ones. Because that’s what the Father’s Day gift was and still is: a real and honest offering. It’s a tentative imploration for more, a suggestion that one day we might get a full account, an unabridged story. But it also says: this is enough. I know you’ll like this, and I like it too, and isn’t that really good?