The best present does not need to be gift wrapped
WHAT a father gets on the one day of the year designated his special spot on the calendar usually depends on the age of his children.
Dad may as well forget any decent surprises until the kids are aged at least 12.
Until then, it is going to be mum who buys dad's gifts and passes them dutifully to the offspring for presentation.
This is a good chance for the spouse to fill those vacuums in the male half of the wardrobe. Socks are good; you always need socks. Underpants, singlets and other items - all the right size - appear.
It is only when the children reach mid-teens that Father's Day presents get a bit more realistic and reasonable. By this time they know he likes a bottle of wine or a good book. Thank you, says dad, knowing that, in the end, he is paying the bill for his own presents.
Fuelled by commercialism, Father's Day is seized with appreciation by the mass marketers and the supermarkets.
Here is another chance to persuade consumers to shell out for an artificial reason.
In an ideal world, of course, Father's Day would be every day of the year, as would Mother's Day, Son's Day (is there such an event and, if not, why haven't promoters latched on to it?) and Daughter's Day.
Surely, in all families, love and appreciation should be shown to all on every day of the year.
Maybe it is, but that is not the point; you have to fuel the economy by purchasing cards and presents. Like Christmas, we are stuck with it.
I think the only sensible present I ever bought my father was a full- length leather coat with zip-out woollen lining.
I purchased it in Beijing, making sure it was two sizes too large for me, and gave it to him to help fend off the clammy cold of New Zealand winters. He wore it until he died.
Take a quick glance at depart ment store windows or advertisements and you get an idea of the pretty rare notions that marketing folk think make good presents.
Pullovers? Here's hundreds of dollars of money for a garment you put in the bottom shelf in the bedroom and wear one day in February when the temperature plunges. Or you pack it for a winter vacation and leave it on a train in Holland.
Wine? Here's a good idea, no matter how rough, you can always palm it off at a barbecue or, better still, pour it at Christmas when your children have invited their friends around.
Books? The ideal solution. Your children probably know what dad likes reading and his hobbies. Even abroad, it is easy for them to check with mum to see if dad has the latest Elmore Leonard thriller or a copy of Edible Fish of the South China Sea.
Cook books are ideal, always, as long as the children have made sure you do not have that volume. What I expect to get this day is a hard rock music CD (from my son at college in California) and a T-shirt with an ecological theme (from my daughter at university in Australia). What I would really like would be to wake up on Father's Day and find them sitting at the breakfast table. Failing that, a phone call or an e-mail would do.