My Dad will be 81 today. He made his yearly trek up from the gulf coast to Atlanta yesterday, and you can write his departure date on your calendar in ink. He’ll leave the day after Father’s Day. His work here will be done. It’s a pretty sweet deal, really; a few hours driving nets him 8 days of pampering, multiple trips to his favorite restaurants, two parties in his honor, and many, many kisses.
He’s never been easy to buy for, mainly because he’s always had the means to buy for himself. My youngest sister buys him clothes. They’re always expensive. They’re always sporty, and they’re always the right size. This is because she has a hand in buying all his clothes. Since it’s his birthday, these clothes will be wrapped in tissue paper inside a box. If he likes them, he’ll say they’re “sharp”. Sometimes they’re even “really sharp”. And, if he likes them a lot, he’ll call someone’s attention to them as in, “Stacye! Look at this! Isn’t this sharp?”
My sister Laura gives him English Leather after shave. She always has. Ever since we were very young, and our parents took us to Rich’s downtown, to the floor where the ladies wearing lots of make-up and really high heels asked us how much money we had, and helped us pick out something to give Mom and Dad at Christmas. I don’t know where she gets it now. I can’t remember the last time I saw that familiar cedar rectangle on display inside a store. Maybe she gets it on the internet. You can buy anything on the internet…
My sister, Holly, and I are, depending on your particular brand of pop-psychology, the Free Spirits, the Rebels, the Scapegoats, and/or Rabble-Rousers in this family. You never know what we might present come gift time. Holly has gone the clothing route; a bold move, in my opinion, given her competition. For a couple of years, she gifted him with coffee. Dad prefers Starbucks, House Blend, please…ground, not bean.
Being the artsy-fartsy one of the bunch, I crafted calendars for Dad. Much to the chagrin of almost everyone present, I named myself “Family Photog”, and set about chronicling our events. Only the best of the bunch graced Dad’s wall. Best, of course, meant lots of things. It might mean cutest, or most comical, or heartwarming, or pretty, and sometimes it just meant the only shot I got in which my sister’s eyes weren’t closed, or my nephew’s mouth wasn’t open. I never knew how much he appreciated my efforts until I didn’t make them any more. He called me, during a time free of family emergency, just to express his disappointment. Of course, he had his calendar in a matter of days.
And he’ll get his calendar this year too…only it’ll be on Father’s Day, not on his birthday…just to change things up. I’m using old black-and-whites of my mother. I’m sure he’ll love it. In the meantime, I went to the Farmer’s Market and bought all the things he likes.
I bought “Sundried Tomatoes Pesto”. I’m sure the label was printed by the same woman manning the booth. She urged me, in her gorgeous Italian accent, to try the vegetable medley. I demurred, explaining the purchase was for my father. “He’ll be 81 tomorrow.” She smiled through her disappointment.
I bought a pint-sized almond pound cake from a teenager, who will never know it was the beautiful crevasse atop the loaf that sold me.
I bought smoky chipotle salsa from a woman more interested in her cellphone than selling salsa. There was either a child or man on the other end of that phone. I know. I’ve been there. I bought anyway. Still, she was disappointed I didn’t try the empanada.
The woman selling spiced pecans was a newbie. She hawked her wares from a cookie sheet while her son quoted prices in whispers. I bought a small, over-priced baggie-ful. Dad loves pecans.