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I’m ready to open presents now.

November 29, 2013

Daddy loving his BirthdayRyan thinks I place abnormal emphasis on Christmas and Birthdays. But like my obsessive compulsive personality, belief in a higher power, and adoration for hot dogs, the joy I derive from giving and receiving presents is a product of my upbringing. Mother’s thoughtfulness paired with her generous spending of Daddy’s money incited me at an early age to select gifts that prove how well I know their recipients. The folds of my brain flip like file folders containing present ideas noted when my loved ones drop hints in casual conversation: my best friend mentioned longing to shop at the store Helix in downtown Athens, Georgia (Bingo! A Helix gift card! I listen! I am the best friend ever!); Mother drooled over expensive return address stickers on a snobby stationery website (Ooo! Personalized Wages labels with birds on them! I am so giving! I am the cooler daughter!); Timber has been sporting statement necklaces for years (Check it out! An enormous neck piece fashioned from a man’s tie! Hey sis! Do you forgive me yet for breaking that mirror over your head in 1987?!).

While I enjoy watching anyone open a perfectly selected prezzie, in the past I wanted to please my father the most — because he gave me everything. This reminds me of my two favorite stanzas from Billy Collins’ “The Lanyard,” in which Collins’ childhood self fashions a lanyard for his mother at summer camp:

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Daddy getting stoked over a giftSimilarly, I have offered Daddy a six-pack of Red Stripe to reciprocate for the semen that formed my zygote; a tin “Ranger Parking Only” sign in exchange for my first car; and a Keurig: payback for loving me during my Terrible Teens, sending me to college, and influencing me to uphold 70% of his values.

For so many years Daddy anticipated gift-opening with the excitement and impatience of a child.

“I’m ready to open presents now,” he would announce in the middle of his Birthday dinner.

“Robert, let us finish eating first!” Mother would giggle and whisper, “You can tell he was an only child.”

Daddy hoorayed when Timber gave him his favorite movie, Fiddler on the Roof, on DVD; whooped when he pulled a Waffle House gift certificate from his Father’s Day card; and pumped a fist when he realized a Nordstrom box actually contained fishing gear — his fervor similar to a young boy who received all the pieces to a Lego wonderland from Santa Claus.

Now nothing gets a rise out of Daddy, not a Woolly Bugger fish fly, not a framed picture of the man who saved his life in Vietnam, not even a Varsity chili dog.

I asked Daddy on the phone what he wants for Christmas this year.

“Hmm, I dunno. Thank ye, b-bye!” he hung up.

What the hell do I give the man who deserves the Greatest Christmas Present in the World? I’ll try to meet Daddy in whatever year he’s stuck in, and jog with him on that broken treadmill. And when he decides to disappear in the back of the house and go to sleep, I won’t protest and let him do the one thing that makes him happy.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandee permalink
    December 2, 2013 9:03 pm

    Bobbin, this is really beautiful. Funny and sad and terrible (what you are experiencing) and wonderful (how you have honored it here). Bravo.

    • December 3, 2013 4:45 pm

      Thank you, Sandee. Your support in reading and appreciating my blog means a lot. Let me know if you’ll be in town over the holidays!

  2. Timber permalink
    December 8, 2013 3:52 pm

    I think this is your best post in a while…and possibly ever.

    It would definitely be nice to find something that actually makes Daddy happy now. I’m not even sure sleep accomplishes that goal so much as it’s just something Daddy resigns himself to do. I do believe, however, that his disease has spared him from the feeling of suffering. Unfortunately it’s the ones who love him who are forced to bear that burden.

    • December 8, 2013 8:57 pm

      Wow, thank you, Timbeee! I’m actually pretty excited about what I’m getting Daddy for Christmas. I’ll tell you about it the next time we chat.

      • Optimus Prime aka The Reverend Al Brown permalink
        December 16, 2013 1:42 pm

        Well heck, I can’t wait to find out either! I guess we shall all hear about it soon. Have a great time at Scene Missing 🙂

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