“Dad, is it okay to replace my 17-year-old mattress?” My father’s been gone seven years but I still consult him every time I spend more than what a dinner in a nice restaurant would cost. If I’m spending money on someone else however, I don’t bother to ask. For family or friends, for persons in need, or for matters involving food, I know I have his blessings to be generous.
When my sister and I were about six and seven, my father came home from work one day and took us out shopping for bicycles. The small store was closing but the shopkeeper stayed open for us. We quickly chose our bikes, and my father asked if we wanted bells for our bicycles. No. We were thrilled simply to have bicycles. “How about baskets? Bicycles need baskets,” he said. We shook our heads. No, thank you. “What about these?” he went on, pointing to streamers and things to dangle off the handlebars. My sister and I hugged our new bikes and declined all his offers until he finally nodded in the direction of the shopkeeper and said, “C’mon, what else can we buy? This guy has to make a living too.”
Decades later, right before a winter vacation to a beach, a surgery gone wrong necessitated buying new clothes for my Dad. Having never been sick up until then, he didn’t own a bathrobe or slippers, or anything one would sit still in. He and I went shopping at Nordstrom’s Department Store for sweatpants, pajamas, a swimsuit, and comfortable casual clothes to fit over the temporary catheter and tubing he suddenly had to accommodate. I couldn’t believe my father even knew how to shop. Except for his love of good food he lived very simply, and wore clothes of World War II vintage. When our pile of purchases at Nordstrom’s grew too heavy for me to carry, I asked, “What else can we buy?” this time meaning I thought he had bought enough.
“Now we buy something for you,” he answered. And he bought me a bathing suit, two pairs of sandals, and a red dress.
Maybe my Dad is watching over me still. Maybe he smiles each time I treat a friend to dinner at Gola Osteria. But, except for food and clothing, it’s hard to be generous with myself. Like this old mattress I want to replace. I’ve been looking for a new one for at least three years. Maybe this year, Dad? For Fathers Day.
What “gifts” did you inherit from your father? What does Fathers Day mean to you?