Now, honestly, I don’t write this to get all sentimental about them, because the reason I have this date stuck so soundly in my head is that my father was absolutely awful at remembering these things. My poor mother spent a lot of years in tears because special days just weren’t important to him.
I have to tell you – the older I get – the more I understand that. Max is so much better about our anniversary and birthdays than I am. It’s not that I don’t care … well, I suppose that’s part of it, but really … just tell me you love me and let’s move on. My birthday? Honestly … what I love the most is an acknowledgment of the day. A simple ‘happy birthday’ goes a long way for me.
But back to today’s date. When I finally got old enough to help my parents deal with this, I kicked right in. About a week or so prior I started showing up in Dad’s office on a regular basis. “Do you remember that the 20th is your anniversary? Have you thought about what you’re going to do for Mom?”
And just like clockwork, Dad would grin at me and ask, “What is she going to do for me?”
I wasn’t getting sucked into that one, so I would just ask if he’d like me to go up to Corner Drug and purchase a card and gift for him. All he had to do was give me some money. So, Mom started getting nicer gifts and the special days in her life came and went without tears and frustration. I even got to the point where I would call Dad at the office to let him know that he needed to just say the words to her when he walked in the door for lunch.
Yep … shake your head. He was awful at this.
Now, when Dad tried to give her a gift on his own, things went from bad to much, much worse.
We call those horrible gifts “wheelbarrow gifts.”
Mom’s birthday was in July and one summer, apparently we desperately needed a new wheelbarrow at the cabin. So … Dad bought a very nice, green wheelbarrow and presented it to Mom as her birthday gift. Wanna talk about tears and a tantrum? Oh … he had one of those on his hands. She was so mad at him. He was going to buy the stinking thing anyway, why in the world did he think it was appropriate to pass it off as her birthday gift?
As I recall, he had proudly told me that he had her birthday taken care of that year. Uh yeah … we never did that again. It took a while, but Mom finally decided to see the humor in the gift and we laughed about it for years and years.
Carol and Jim probably have their own memories of trying to help Dad purchase gifts for Mom. Dad was a great guy, but this was not one of his strengths. All three of us kids are great gift-givers though, because he was so bad.
On September 20, I always wake up and smile as I think about the fact that it’s my parent’s anniversary and it always had the potential to be great or absolutely awful. It was never just a day.