I don't come from a gift giving family.
As adults, my sister and I will sometimes exchange presents, but my parents, immigrants from India, have never been big on the ritual of using material objects to show affection, gratitude or appreciation.
Seriously, my Dad will honestly just shake your hand on your birthday. That's no big deal when you're in your 30s, but kinda sucks when you're 10.
So most major and minor holidays pass without exchanging cards or ugly sweaters that we'll have to shove in an over crowded closet.
Despite the lack of STUFF growing up, I didn't turn into a serial killer or some seriously maladjusted hoarder. For the most part, my sanity is intact, and just because my parents are total gift-giving disasters, doesn't mean they didn't buy me stuff.
My Dad has a good track record of unexpected giving (sorry Mom, not you) but not in the ways one would expect. Here are three things my Dad gave me and what (I think) they secretly mean. I call them gifts. Other people might call them, oh... trash.
A Pair of Work Gloves
I got laid off from my first real job after about nine months. I was unemployed and living with my parents. As the weeks of unemployment started to stretch out I busied myself with small DIY projects around the house. I put up blinds, fixed broken drawers and started staining the brand new deck.
After the second day of watching me shred my fingers trying to sand down the deck with my bare hands, my Dad brought home a pair of durable, yellow work gloves for me to wear. It was a surprisingly thoughtful gesture and tacit approval of my hard work thus far.
In all that time, he never uttered a complaint about my employment status. Just tossed the gloves at me and sent me on my way.
Hidden Dad Message: "Keep doing what you're doing, kid."
During my second long bought with unemployment I started running and swimming to fill the time. I'd come home with red, watery eyes that itched and burned from the chlorine. My form was terrible, I could barely make it from one end of the pool to the other and life guards routinely assumed I was drowning. Any reasonable parent would have had their kid pack it in already.
My Dad just picked up (slightly too small) swimming goggles for me to wear in the pool and made at least some portion of my workout bearable.
Hidden Dad Message: Wow, you're pretty terrible at this right now, but keep working and maybe you'll get better. I said maybe. Don't get your hopes up.
"7 ways to prevent hair loss" Article
Not too long ago, my Dad clipped out an article titled "7 Ways to Prevent Hair Loss" from a magazine and left it on the kitchen counter for me to find.
The man is not one for tact.
At some point, he must have overheard me worrying to my Mom that my hair was falling out (it's not) and decided he needed to intervene. I'm baffled by this gift but use it to remember that sometimes, even things we think are mildly insulting are done with an air of good will and love.
It now proudly hangs on my fridge.
Hidden Dad Message: I'm worried about you and how you'll ever find a husband if you lose all your hair.
My theory has always been that the best gifts are things that come unexpectedly, without occasion and simply say, "Hey I was thinking of you." Usually, they cost next to nothing. This Father's Day, I won't be getting my Dad a gift. I'll probably just shake his hand.