Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Fathers' Day Present

The Fathers' Day that stands out most clearly in my memory is the one from 1967. I was four years old at the time, and not yet a father myself. But I had a father, who smoked at the time, and who had expressed an interest in a certain lighter that he had seen in a store during a recent shopping expedition. So mom decided that she would get him said lighter as a Fathers' Day gift, and that she would take my two-year-old sister and me along, partially because she had no sitter for us and partially so that we might feel that we had participated in getting dad's Fathers' Day gift.

"Big deal," you may say. I agree it may not seem like one, until you understand that:

a) The store at which dad had seen the lighter was a considerable distance from our home.
b) We had only one car, which dad had taken to work, and mom didn't drive anyway.

So we took the bus, but even that entailed a fair bit of walking, both to get to the bus stops and because mom didn't remember exactly where the store in question was, having been there only once or twice, and never having navigated her way there on her own. You know how it is; when someone else is driving, you don't always pay attention. Besides, the buses almost never take the same route as one would take by car.

Still, mom was confident that she could find her way there and so off we went, the three of us, leaving home at some time between 9 and 10 am. We started off in the best of spirits, but young children tend to tire easily. By noon or so we still hadn't found the store, we were getting hungry, not having had lunch, and my sister and I were both getting hot, tired and cranky.

Not long after that, we finally did find the store that we were looking for, and our spirits lifted slightly, both because our goal was finally within reach and because we were finally able to get some lunch.

Once inside the store, mother was just as vague about exactly where dad had seen the lighter as she was about the location of the store itself, so we wandered around searching for a bit until mom finally gave in and asked a store sales clerk. Unfortunately, we had been in Canada for less than two years at the time, having immigrated from Austria in 1965, and her mastery of the English language was far from refined, so she mistakenly asked the sales clerk where we might find a "flashlight", which she thought was the english word for an instrument that lights cigarettes. The sales clerk, of course, very helpfully took us straight to the sporting goods department, where there was a wide variety of flashlights to choose from, none of which, unfortunately, produced enough heat to ignite the end of a cigarette.

We stood there, somewhat befuddled, for a few moments. Mom did not want to explain to the sales clerk that this was not what she wanted at all as she already felt stupid enough. She didn't want to have gone to all that trouble for nothing either. So, after a little more unsuccessful searching around, she finally bought herself a pair of gloves for forty cents, and we headed home. By the time we finally arrived back home, it was about 2:30 pm. Exhausted, we all went straight to our rooms where we slept until almost dinner time.

Dad never did get his lighter; in fact, he eventually gave up smoking entirely, which makes his premature departure from this life seem all the more unfair. When mom later told him of our adventure, he laughed and told her that she'd better mount and frame those gloves.

Happy Fathers' Day, dad. I miss you.


Martin said...

Your father was a good man.

Having said that, I know he never could figure out whether I was a good or a bad influence on you. Mind you, I dont think you helped boost his opinion of me. Once, you had a casserole dish full of some leftovers that you wanted to heat up. This being before the advent of microwave ovens, you decided to put the dish directly on the electric burners of your stove. I looked at the slowly reddening coil under the dish, and remarked that maybe that wasnt such a good idea. To your credit, you at least hesitated a moment, before shrugging dismissively. Of course, the casserole dish broke with a loud bang shortly thereafter. When your father expressed outrage, I remember you blurting out that it was my idea. Always eloquent under stress, I looked at you in shock, sputtered something incoherent, and looked guilty as all hell.


Halmanator said...

Yeah, but then your dad had a similar opinion of me, as I recall. The fact that, in my case, it was well deserved makes no difference.