May 24th, 2009
Fathers Day Gifts By Peter Res
There’s something to be said for honoring Dad. Most of us recall celebrating our Fathers as children: those superheroes of handiwork, keepers of the values of the family in their own unique way. At once, our fathers are our guides and confidants, friends and mentors, sharing personal secrets and stories, skills and victories: All the events that are meant to compel us into Life’s uncertainties, more aware of what may come. Often times, the lessons passed on to us by our Fathers, go blatantly unnoticed or ignored for years. Ever since I can remember, my Dad insisted that I be fully dressed, no matter the occasion. Each holiday I would rise from my bed and run down the stairs in my pajamas, ready to refuse his requests. But as they soon turned to demands, I begrudgingly complied, by putting on my socks and shoes.
At the time, I suppose I thought it was a quirk or a rare streak of tyranny on my father’s part. But it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized what was behind Dad’s insistence. However odd, it was his way of preparing me for the day, of instilling me in concepts of punctuality and organization, with the hope of making my life easier. I could not have understood this at such a young age. But good fathers provide us with these lessons regardless, one of many, in a toolbox of possible choices. They can only offer us the atlases of their experience, handing down personal instructions in our best interest that may still lead us in the wrong direction. Father’s day is a celebration of that courage.
At this point, it may seem hard to believe that a hardware store gift certificate is meant to mean all that. The answer, like fatherhood itself, is complicated. Culturally, we have a tendency to focus too much on what’s being given to dad, and not enough on what the gift represents. For this reason, any old gift certificate to an electronics or hardware store is not going to work. Fatherhood is defined in its uniqueness, where our understanding of its importance changes with our personal growth. Our gifts represent this, whether we are aware of it or not, at various stages of life. For this reason, a childhood taping of my father’s favorite television show could mean more to him than the choice of all the hammers in the world.
The history of the holiday actually echoes these themes, with surprising lessons of its own, for further insight into Father’s Day. Awful occurrences have often led us to observe the things we take for granted through commemoration, with Veterans’ holidays providing a clear and constant reminder of that fact. A similar sentiment must’ve been the mindset of Grace Golden Clayton in July of 1908. At a local Episcopal church in Fairmont, West Virginia, she is believed to have urged a pastor to celebrate the lives of over 300 men, a considerable amount of fathers among them, who had been killed in December of that year, by an explosion, in a neighboring town.
Nearly one year later in Spokane, Washington, another woman became inspired to celebrate fathers. Interestingly enough, however, the inspiration came to Sonoma Dodd during a Mother’s Day sermon. Having been raised by her father, Dodd felt the need for a holiday of her own, to show her appreciation. Since her father William was born in June, Sonoma held a celebration during that month especially, in his honor. Moreover, William Smart was also a civil war veteran, having likely seen the deaths of many fellow fathers.
But it wasn’t until 1924 that Father’s Day celebrations received national attention, with President Coolidge’s recommendation. More time passed, until 1966, when President Johnson designated the third Sunday of June for the holiday. But it took a third president, and more time still, to make Father’s Day an official National Holiday. In 1972, President Nixon made it so, giving due weight to the unique concerns of two women, and countless others, nearly 63 years earlier.
This history lesson, if anything, shows us that Father’s day was itself sparked as a notion, from unlikely circumstances. These circumstances, however peculiar, were important enough to garner national attention, in a time without instantaneous correspondence, quite extraordinary given the circumstances. Equally extraordinary is the sheer fact that a similar conversation can be had about fathers today, and is the basis for the rhetoric that funds ad campaigns to get us to buy something special for Dad, this time around.
But special gifts can only come through special consideration. Just as our fathers have been telling us all along, in one form or another there’s no easy way to approach life. Best, perhaps, is to keep in mind the things that go unnoticed, the qualities of our fathers that keep them with us in memory and voice, for generations.
Experience Days is a website dedicated to the very celebration of this uniqueness, with Father’s day gifts that let you express your appreciation, as personally as possible. You might even give Dad the adventure of his lifetime, with an Introductory Flight or Hang Gliding lesson. After all, who said boys couldn’t fly?