From the Avid Reader Desk: Father’s Day

Words by James Butler

Published on August 30, 2012

When it comes to special occasions, I’m a pretty terrible son. Every year I need to call my Mum and ask if my Dad’s birthday is on the 24th, the 25th, or 26th of July.

(I actually could not tell you right now which one of the three it is. It could be the 28th even. It could even not be in July but in June.)

(I hope that my Dad does not ever see this post.)

Last night when my Mum rang me at 10.30pm to tell me that she watched Q&A on Monday and thought Sefi Atta was especially beautiful and didn’t I agree, she also reminded me that Father’s Day is in fact this coming weekend and maybe I should visit my Dad. It was a nice reminder that I did need — made even nicer by the fact that my parents have been divorced for over ten years.

I once gave my father the board-game Twister on a milestone birthday. The sentiment was supposed to be ‘you’re old and can’t move your body as good now but I still think that you’re great’, but came off more as ‘I’m glad it is your birthday because now I have an excuse to buy Twister — how great is Twister!’ It did not go down well. This year I promised him tickets to see an AFL game between the Richmond Tigers and Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. I never booked the tickets, so essentially gave the birthday gift of a broken promise.

To make this post less about how shitty a son I am and more about how shitty children we all are, I asked around to find out what was the worst gift Avid Reader staff had given their fathers.

My fellow staff member Michelle Law gave her Dad a ‘weird, green, shell-covered jewelry box’ that years later she found in her parents bedroom still wrapped in plastic. She bought the box using money her Dad had given her, so her Dad bought something that he never liked or used for himself. She also once forgot her Dad’s birthday because she was caught up in organising her own 21st, as their birthdays are two days apart.

I also asked Avid Reader customers their gift-giving horror stories and was regaled with stories of buying ashtrays for recent non-smokers, a fake poop (my response = ???), and Englebert Humperdinck’s ‘Greatest Hits’. Possibly the greatest story of them all was from someone who gave their dad a leather wallet from an Aussie souvenir shop only later to discover it was made of kangaroo scrotum.

Just to be clear, they gave their father marsupial ball sack. This kills me.

So this year for Father’s Day I am going to be safe and buy my Dad something I’m sure he’ll like: In One Person by John Irving. Sure it’s about boys becoming girls and bisexuals and AIDS and crushes on family members, but he’s an Irving fan and it’s a terrific book.