I believe in giving a perfect gift. Any gift I buy must be uniquely suited to the person who receives it. There are no generic gifts on my shopping list. When I find a perfect gift, I cherish the secret, and count the hours until I can finally give it away.
Finding a perfect gift is never easy, but finding a perfect gift for my father was almost impossible. If there was something he wanted, he’d usually buy it for himself. I never had a chance. In desperation, I joined forces with my sister. She’s the one who thought of tying dozens of balloons to the trees along his driveway. We’d do it in the middle of the night before his birthday so he never knew for sure who was responsible. We knew he liked those balloons because he took pictures of them every year.
Once on his birthday we filled a basket with different brands of spring water. He took pictures of that, too, so we knew it was a success. Usually, though, we’d present his gift with an apology, and a complaint about how difficult it was to find a perfect gift for him. My father would shake his head, smile, and say “All you need to do is be here”. He couldn’t seem to understand how important it was to find a perfect gift.
Last year I lost my father so I don’t need to search for a perfect gift for him anymore. But old habits die hard, and a part of me will never stop looking. So I had mixed feelings when I found a note he had written to me before his illness. He asked me to look in the library for a book by a man he had known. It was about a boy growing up in the thirties in Kansas in much the same way that he had grown up in Iowa. I turned on my computer and found it almost immediately.
That book would have been a wonderful gift. My father would have been delighted. He might even have posed for a picture with it. But it wouldn’t have been a perfect gift. After all those years I finally know what the perfect gift is. I figured it out as we celebrated my mother’s birthday without my father for the first time. When I handed her a gift with an apology, and a complaint about how difficult it is to find a perfect gift for her, my mother shook her head, smiled, and said “All you need to do is be here”.
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