Why buying for Dad is so difficult


I’m two days away from my 47th Christmas and only have one gift left to buy. It’s for my dad. He’s going to get the same thing I’ve gotten him the last two years, something inexpensive, consumable … something that I know he’ll like, but maybe isn’t what he wants. How do I know? Because my own kids are having the same problem buying for me.

What do I want for Christmas? How does one explain it? And kids, they wouldn’t understand it if I told them. I didn’t understand it, not until a few years ago. I think it was when my oldest daughter became a teenager that I began to understand why it was so hard to figure out what my dad wanted for Christmas. That’s when it became harder for me to say what I wanted.

Would I like to have a 60-inch plasma TV? A 1969 Boss 302 Mustang in perfect condition? The volumes necessary to complete my Oxford Illustrated series of Charles Dickens’ novels? Sure. Do I want someone I love to spend the money buying those things? Of course not.

There are other things I want, some I have little control over, and some that are impossible, and some I have to work at myself. I want the energy and optimism of my youth with the wisdom of my age. I want book contracts that will allow me to write full time and travel the country. I want to be a better teacher. I don’t think Santa has those things in his bag, and kids can’t use their allowance to buy them at Walmart.

Remember King Osric from the 1981 Conan the Barbarian? Remember his speech when he was hiring Conan and his friends to rescue his daughter from Thulsa Doom?

There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father’s love for his child.

This will be my final Christmas without the title of Grandfather. I’m getting old. I have bills to pay, but I have most of the material things I need to be comfortable. So, what do I want for Christmas? I want my kids — and grandkids — to do better and be better than me. I want them to always know that I love them. I want to see them happy. When I’ve left this world I want them to have many more good memories of me than bad ones.

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