“What do you get for the man who has everything?”
People often ask me this. My view is, if he has everything, the best thing you can do is get him nothing. I think everyone should concentrate on giving gifts to the rest of us, since we don’t have everything. And really, the man who has everything ought to share the wealth and give some of his stuff away.
Father’s Day originated in Vienna, where it was invented by Sigmund Freud when he was having a huge argument with his mother. It has since gone on to become a major gift-giving holiday here in the United States. Fishing tackle shops, wallet and tie manufacturers, and the hammer industry all see big boosts in sales at this time of year, whether men need these items or not. My dad never lacked for a hammer because we all thought it was the perfect Father's Day gift, year after year. He also had a huge supply of ties. But probably the best gifts my dad got from his sons were those we created in shop class.
Shop was where we learned to make things out of wood and/or metal using a variety of hand, power, or machine tools, learning the basics of home repair, craftsmanship, and machine safety. I was terrible in shop. I am still terrible at fixing things. My preferred repair method is to break whatever it is that needs fixing and ask for a new one for Father’s Day.
However, each year I did dutifully try to make metal or wooden objects in shop to give as a gift to my dad and mom—useful items, like magazine holders, napkin holders, and paperweights. Since I was the third of three sons, my parents already had plenty of these items, and as my brother Phil is much handier than I am, they had better paperweights than I could hope to produce. (I’ve always wondered who invented the paperweight. Over the years I have been given several lovely paperweights, and it takes me years to finally do what needs to be done and throw them away.)
As an aside—and frankly, so far this entire blog has been an aside—my dear friend Regis Goodwin and I did come to appreciate shop class when we realized we could use the tools and materials at hand to make something useful: pipes for smoking marijuana. As a father I want to say I don’t approve of this behavior, but at the time it seemed like a great idea. Maybe that’s why eventually they politely asked us to leave Byram Hills High School and never return. But that’s a whole other story.
Anyhow, regarding gifts for Father’s Day—I am not suggesting you make your dad a pipe. And hammers, ties, wallets, fishing tackle, and golf equipment are so ordinary. This year, why not give him something he can really use—a harmonica! I’d recommend either a Lee Oskar major diatonic or a Hohner Special 20, key of C, to get him started. And while you’re at it pick him up a copy of How to Play the Harmonica: And Other Life Lessons by Sam Barry, proud father of two wonderful children and former juvenile delinquent. This book, which won the Nobel Prize for Harmonica Literature, will get the dad in your life started on playing the harmonica and give him a laugh or two. What more can the man who has everything ask for? Don’t answer that.