This Sunday, I headed into my local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, a hot spot for men in my area–and in general–in search of none other than hearty, hammer-loving fathers. I wasn’t on some super secret mission, spying on the patriarch of my town, hiding out behind light fixtures and in dryers to track them down. If you’re thinking that is exactly what a spy would say, I promise I simply approached confirmed dads with the question we’ve all been wondering as their holiday rears its easily forgotten head: “What do you REALLY want for father’s day, dad?
“A stripper in a red velvet cake.”
“One thousand bottles of beer.”
“A robot to clean my child’s diapers.”
“A trip to Jamaica. For free,” said… no one.
I made those up. No father said anything remotely close to any of that, which made my conversations less interesting than I had imagined during my Taylor Swift-chanting car ride to the mythical man cave known as Lowes. There were no lavish desires for vacations, dream homes, nights out, crazy sexcapades or days away from their kids.
And that was the most interesting part of it all. I kept smiling, a little secret tucked in my back pocket: dads rock. Dads really, truly rock.
So prepare for the waterworks, and the sudden urge to call your father and tell him that you love him, because dads are like Morgan Freeman 6.0s: magical and god-like.
Victor, the first dad I ran into, was stacking bulbs in his Lowes uniform. He joked about wanting a vacation, nowhere in specific, chuckled nervously and then quickly made sure I knew he was kidding. Oh, I knew, Victor. He said that a vacation isn’t what he wants at all, It isn’t what any father wants on Father’s Day. What your dad wants is much more heart-wrenching. After hearing it, you’ll wish you’d never yelled at him, slammed your door in his face or called him a lame, balding dunderhead whose failure to read the directions on that Hamburger Helper Box lead you to vomit all over the stick figure masterpiece you planned on giving to the blonde-headed babe next door. Never forget.
“All your dad wants is to know that you’re okay,” he said. “Your dad wants to know that he did a good job raising you, you know? That all the anguish and hard work was worth it. That’s the big thing.”
Um. Be right back. Crying. Had to excuse myself to rub my nose on an outdoor seat cushion and beg some old lady for her waterproof mascara and cat-in-a-cute-pot brooch. I’m back now.
“He just wants to feel important. I mean, a card will suffice, too,” he said. “Guys like cards. And we like flowers as well.”
Victor likes roses. Someone get this man a bouquet.
We shook hands, talked about spirituality and then I was off.
Now dressed in a Halle Berry cat woman suit–a dad spy must have multiple disguises– I meet my next father: Ron Moss.
Ron’s a man with two kids, one 300 miles away in Connecticut and the other 1,200 miles away in Nevada. With all the sentiment we received from Victor, who woulda guessed that Ron would be a bigger mushball.
“To have my kids home would be the greatest thing,” he said humbly. “It would mean the most to me. I don’t see them much. Only on Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
Holy sadness and simple pleasures. Where’s the gift cards and corvettes, people? I had to leave Ron before officially deciding that dressing up as his two children, making counterfeit plane tickets and surprising him at home would not be overboard. But it would be too difficult. I can’t get in and out of drag that fast. I’ve tried. No follow-up questions.
“Are you a father?” I said to a man shopping for chandeliers.
“Five times!” this elderly man with a white pony tail yelled proudly.
His name is Ray Crosby. I think he could have been a stallion in a former life.
“Ok, so, what do you REALLY want for father’s day this year?” I asked, hoping for a reply with a price tag from this guy who appeared old enough to have been slinging back a dirty martini as he watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
“A big hug,” he told me just to break my heart, I swear.
“That’s it?!” I was trying to pry something extraordinary out of him.
“Yeah, that’s it.” He nodded. “One from every one of them. Sincere ones.”
I walked away because the battle against the urge to bear hug this guy was about to be lost.
But wait! On the horizon, a dad who actually wants something! Something tangible, something product, something… from Lowes!
A guy named Bill pointed at the chair before him. “This chair,” he said. Wantingly.
And then, of course, he said, “Nah, nothing. I’m good.” WHAT IS HAPPENING! WHY THE SELFLESSNESS!
And if I wasn’t already dying from cuteness and sincerity, here came Bob Hierling.
“I’m at that point, where I don’t need anything,” he said, and then immediately whipped out photos of his three-year-old granddaughter eating cookies with him at Starbucks.
She, drinking a caramel macchiato with three espresso shots, was side-eyeing him and his empty hands. He did need a pick me up– just in a form with less caffeine and more baby.
“I just want more grandchildren! You take ‘em to the park, buy ‘em an ice cream, fill ‘em with sugar and send ‘em back to mom and dad,” he said. “It’d be a great present to have another grandchild on Father’s Day, but that takes planning.”
Ladies, if you started planning for a Father’s day surprise this September then some lucky dads might get that wish. But I guess you’d have to induce labor that day. And that’s a lot. Don’t take this advice.
Bob did, however, come up with his own brilliant Dad’s Day itinerary whilst looking through a few color swatches. And after some moments of contem-paint-ion, disclosed it to me.
“We’d make a 9:00 tee time, I’d have some breakfast with my wife and play 18 holes with my son-in-law. A beer and burger after the first nine and then have a cook-out after, put some burgers and steaks on the grill and have a little drink or two.”
Or two. I wink at Bob. Metaphorically, because I’m only thinking up the joke now as I write this. Damn it.
A lady buying paint spoke up, after listening to our conversation. The real spy reveals herself at last. She and her husband have been married 33 years and she swears he would still say he wants nothing for Father’s Day. Little does her husband know that their son is coming home to surprise him.
She said, “We [parents] just want our kids home.”
If you’re ripping your hair out trying to figure out what your dad wants this Father’s Day, or you have no idea how to make him happy or make him smile, 1. Welcome to your mother’s life and 2. Just know that you don’t need to shower him with extravagant gifts. All your dad wants is you. Cue the inevitable “awwwww.”
“Unless you’re saying ‘hey would you like a jet boat or something like that, then yeah I’ll take a jet boat.” Good ol’ Bob.