A Father's Gift
Two Tales of Fatherhood

P. S. Gifford

© Copyright 2005 by P. S. Gifford


  My father and I have had a strange relationship over the years. Circumstances happened as such that my father had to raise me by himself and we ultimately immigrated to California.

  My father was born into a working class family in England in 1927. His father passed away when he was just eight, leaving his mother to raise him and his older brother and sister. This meant my father had in retrospect and incredibly tough childhood even the basics were hard toy come by. He however discovered a sanctuary from his troubles the local lending library and at an early age he was devouring several books a week.

My father is a private man and much of this love of the written word was hidden until recently even from me.  I also discovered over recent years that he had a great passion for writing at a young age, however in a working class family in 1930’s Britain this was frowned upon as writing was not deemed an appropriate interest. A few years later he finally found music as a way to express himself- alongside his full time engineering career.

I recently asked him what books he enjoyed as a child…He told me that his earliest memories were the “Just William” series by Richard Crompton. He explained  later on in life he became enamored with the Welsh working class hero Thomas Dylan…I nodded to myself thoughtfully as he spoke. I was definitely my father’s son..

Several weeks ago I realized that father’s day was fast approaching and I wondered what on Earth I could buy this self made man who now had everything. Then I had an idea.

Yesterday, as my eleven year old son and I watched with great interest,  my  seventy-seven year old father unwrapped his Gifts…The first present he pulled from the gift bag was a  book – a beautifully illustrated compilation of poetry with a father /son theme…His eyes seemed to sparkle as he opened it and he gleefully read aloud the first poem that he caught his attention..

  I then prompted him to delve further into the gift bag and several seconds later he retrieved a second book, clumsily wrapped in gold tissue. We watched on in anticipation as a look of curiosity washed over his face and with still strong hands he gently tore away the paper. It was a beautiful moment when he comprehended what he was holding -a 1926 edition of “Just William”, which I had discovered over the  wonderful internet at an English bookstore. I have to admit I suspected that he would appreciate the gift-Yet I had no idea just how moved he would be. The wonderful, albeit faded, book even contained advertisements on the back pages. He told me that he would have held the identical book in his hands almost seventy years ago…

Yes, it was a very special and memorable of father’s days.


On the 13th of February 2004 as my wife and I were out  Grocery shopping with our eleven (twelve next month) young son, Jonathan, I found him awkwardly eyeing the aisle of valentine's merchandise. He was immersed in looking at the chocolate roses,
teddy bears, candy hearts andall the other seemingly endless array of offerings. I could tell that he needed some assistance.

"What's up son?" I prompted reassuringly placing my hand on his shoulder.

"Erm…There's a girl at school I like and I want to get her something for Valentines Day dad…" came his timid reply. His freckled young face was now matching a beetroot we had just seen in the produce department.

"I see" I say positively. I knew off the girl, Hannah, and had often heard all about of the innocent tribulations that go along with that first clumsy crush. She likes me; she doesn't like me, back and forth, highs and lows.

I examined what they had and decisively reached over and grabbed a packet of candy, neatly boxed up in a clear tube with a Disney figure placed on top.

"How about this" I recommended.

Jonathan was unsure at first- and gazed hesitantly at it.

"Trust me" I added "it is perfect… It is cute, she'll love it."
 This s eemed to convince Jonathan and so it was a done deal.

That night after dinner I watched on as he nervously wrote out the card that was going to be attached to the present. I could not help but smile to myself, as I remembered being that age and behaving similarly myself.

The following morning, on the big day, I noticed Jonathan was playing with his bowl of cereal and not actually eating it.

"What's wrong son?" I enquired, already knowing exactly what the matter was.

"Suppose she laughs at me dad?" I reminisced to being twelve and  beingfull of insecurities.

"She'll love it" I repeated hoping and praying that I was going to be proved right.

He finished his breakfast d deep in thought and then I drove him to school. As he hopped out, he looked up at me as if looking for some further encouragement.

"You are going to do great son!" I confirmed.

All day long I could not help but wonder how he was doing.When I returned to pick him up after school. I was trying to gain by the composure of his walk as to how it went. I could have sworn that he seemed to be a bit taller.

As he climbed into our truck, his face could not conceal how ecstatic he was.

"So?" I prompted. Eagerly "How was your day?"

"The best day of my life!" His voice was overflowing with excitement. "Hannah is in my second period class…I snuck in early and placed the card and present on her desk. I was terrified dad!"
I smiled as he continued…

"When she came in, she picked it up and read the card… Then she looked right at me, and gave me a smile and a wave…Dad, I shall remember that wave the rest of my entire life."

As I drove home, I could not help to think he was right. - He will remember that moment for the rest of his life…

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