TOMORROW, a lot of ties, shirts and socks will be presented to us dads, and we will do our level best to pretend that we are genuinely thrilled that our offspring have thought about our welfare, if only for five minutes.
In addition to these presents (which, of course, were bought by wives, not children), I think that dads should be given the gift of words.
By this I mean that there are certain words that a dad should hear on Father's Day. In addition, there are phrases he should be spared from hearing on his day.
Two words that every dad would love to hear are "I agree." An acceptable variant of this welcome wording would be "you're right." These are sentiments that are rarely uttered in a father's presence these days, especially in his own home. Saying them requires the speakers to listen, however briefly, to what their dad was saying.
Pretending to be interested as your father rants about "what's wrong with the Orioles" or "the correct way to hold the steering wheel" or "who should be our next president" requires some acting ability. But most kids are pretty accomplished at deceiving their parents.
Another phrase that is music to a father's ears is "do whatever you want." On most days of the year, dads work at tasks that other people - bosses, family members, society - expect us to perform. We go to work. We yell at the kids. We attempt home repairs. Father's Day offers us the chance to do something merely because we want to do it, without being sneaky about it.
On Father's Day we can sit in our family room and still be free from family responsibilities. It is a great feeling. Usually we can't think of much to do with our few hours of new-found freedom, other than sitting still and downing several cold beverages. But this annual, brief taste of liberty keeps us content for another year.
On the other side of the ledger are the words that should not be spoken within earshot of the old man on Father's Day. Among them are "old," "slow" and "self-improvement." These are "discouraging words." These words and the fitness devices associated with them should not be linked, in any way, to Father's Day presents. In other words, no NordicTrak.
Another phrase that dads don't want to hear on Father's Day is, "There's water covering the basement floor." I happened to hear this phrase the other night, when I was in bed, on my way to slumberland. Somebody had forgotten to turn off a hose, and water had found its way to the basement.
I lost about an hour of "beauty sleep" mopping up the floor and was not in a good mood. So if a small stream happens to course through your basement tomorrow, don't ruin dad's day by telling him. Just shut up and mop it up.
Another phrase a dad shouldn't hear on Father's Day is, "I think I might have run over something in the parking lot." In every household there are drivers who (because they are often lost in thought or lost in the lyrics of the tune on the radio) don't seem to notice when obstacles (like curbs and parking lot barriers) appear in their path. As they journey down the road of life they are followed by someone, usually a dad, who takes the car into the shop for alignment. Don't remind him of this duty on Father's Day.
Similarly, try to avoid saying "travel team double-header" or "swim meet" or "vague directions" to him on this day. The very mention of these words often evokes angry memories and will cause him to grit his teeth, make a fist and long for his bachelor days. Finally, remember that even though it might be painful to say kind things to dad, the practice doesn't have to last very long. Nobody can stand more than one day of being nice to dad, including him.