Asking people what they want for a present is always tricky. That is why gift registries were invented. Many, many years ago, on one pleasant afternoon, a distinguished gentleman asked his distinguished wife what she wanted for her birthday, and without missing a beat, she distinguishably replied, “This question again? If you don’t know what I want by now, you will never know. Bye bye.”
The distinguished gentleman was so distraught that he decided to invent the gift registry department, so that no man had to go through what he had gone through.
And now it is so easy! Armed with our 20 percent off coupons, we head into Bed, Bath and Why-Is-There-An-International-Food-Section to buy gifts for engagements and weddings. Gift cards have become an easy way to say, “Wow, you really read the Torah well, go treat yourself to something at Target!” Find even babies have their own registry — because you never know which teething toy is the absolute right one. Gone is the fun of re-gifting that Mikasa vase that you got 30 years ago that came with the card from the original gifter. (True story — we got a present that wished someone else a mazal tov. Come on people, if you are going to re-gift, at least take the time to write out a new card!) My fondest re-gifting memory is the picture frame that I received in a Gap box for a graduation present. Gap does not make picture frames, so being true to my snarky personality (even all of those years ago), the thank-you note read, “Thank you so very much for the incredible Gap picture frame!” What can you do? If the giver of that gift is reading this, now you know that I knew. You are totally busted.
Since Father’s Day is approaching, I decided to ask my father what he wanted for a gift. Every year, I ask my dad what he wants for his birthday or Chanukah, or whatever the celebration is, and his response usually is “I just want shalom bayit.” (Which is code for “Please stop fighting with your mother.”) This always works well for me because it means that whatever I get him, whether it be slippers that look like moose heads, or a book, it isn’t what he really wants, so it is lose-lose all around. (Though he never ever makes me feel like he doesn’t absolutely love whatever it is that I do get him, which is why he is my favorite parent. Shh, don’t tell my mom.)
Shalom bayit is something you cannot buy. It is something that you can try to obtain, but that is for a different column altogether. In any event, this year I decided, once again, to ask him what he wanted.
Now, as some of you know, for the past three years my dad hasn’t been his usual self. But we take it one day at a time, which is all you can do. And when I asked him the question about what he wanted, I just expected the answer that I have been getting for the 40 or so years that I have been asking the question. But this year, when I innocently asked, “Hey dad, what do you want for Father’s Day,” his reply was, “What I want, you cannot get for me.”
What? Had he finally realized that I am never going to stop fighting with my mother? (Sorry mom.) Had he come to the depressing realization that the doctors just don’t know what is wrong with him? This was not the answer I wanted, and my heart sank.
“Umm, dad, what do you mean by that?” “Very simple,” my sweet father replied. And he proceeded to look through a pile of books and magazines next to his beloved green chair and pull out the familiar red soft-covered “Who’s Who in Baseball” 2016 edition. Now, for those of you who have no idea what this tome is, it is the official lifetime records of major league players. There have been 101 editions of this gem published since 1912. But this year is the last year for this baseball/literary masterpiece. They are no longer publishing it. My father has 62 issues. I asked him if he wrote a letter to the editor and he said that people have tried, but the publishers feel that with all of the online accessibility to players’ stats and history, there is no longer a need for “Who’s Who in Baseball.” He is very sad, and it made me sad that he is sad. Another classic example of how people are being replaced by technology.
I guess this year I really will have to stop fighting with my mom….
Banji Ganchrow has not given husband #1 good presents in the past, even though she thought he would like a mezuzah. This year, she is hoping he will be happy. If not, you will all hear about it in her next column.