One Father’s Day, I bought my Dad a bottle of Blue Stratos aftershave.
His grooming routine consisted of Lifebuoy soap, Gillette shaving foam and roll on deodorant.
Why I assumed he’d be thrilled with a bottle of men’s perfume, I have no idea.
That blue bottle sat untouched on the medicine cabinet shelf for months, growing progressively dustier as time passed.
Undeterred, I bought him an Old Spice gift set the following year and a soap-on-a-rope the one after that.
The poor man.
Raised on a farm in the 1930s and 40s, Dad was as old school as they came. Of course he wouldn’t be comfortable smelling anything other than clean.
Kids are well meaning but essentially clueless when it comes to gifting their parents. I was in my early twenties by the time I figured out that model cars were more his speed.
But it was something he said to me when I came out to him just before my thirtieth birthday that told me everything I needed to know about what he wanted from me.
Dad Doesn’t Really Need More Stuff
After outing myself as a lesbian to my very Afrikaans father, this was his adorable response, “As long as you still come and visit.”
He later went on to refer to Sporty as my parcel. “How’s your Parcel?” he’d ask whenever I called. On the odd occasion that I visited alone. “Where’s your Parcel?” he’d want to know, usually in a disgruntled tone.
My parents didn’t get on, so I stood in as Dad’s plus one at family events. After learning that Saskia wasn’t just my roommate, he immediately assumed she’d be his plus two.
Dad was awkward, full of it and annoying in the extreme, but he had a big heart. The fact that he kept it mostly under wraps was, I suppose, part of his charm.
Still, I’m grateful to him for showing me that time is more valuable than stuff.
Time + Love = Good Memories
Nobody needs more stuff. The best way to create lasting memories is to spend time with the people you love. In this case, your father. Think about the kind of things he enjoys doing and do that with him.
It could be a round of golf, a camping trip or a night at the opera, only you know what your best guy likes. Maybe all you do is spend the afternoon at your parents’ house having a braai.
It’s winter in South Africa, but when did the cold ever stop us from firing up the Weber?
Down the line, it’s these seemingly inconsequential times you’ll remember most vividly. Soak them up. Be fully present and enjoy every moment.
Of course, not all dads are minimalists. Some of them like having a gift to unwrap, if for no other reason than because it makes them feel like a kid again.
Maybe you like the idea of gifting time and love, but would still like to buy your father a little something anyway. I get that. If that’s the case, at least make sure it’s a Father’s Day gift he’ll use and appreciate.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot or be super fancy. It could be a slab of his favourite chocolate, a personalised coffee mug or, if he’s anything like my Dad was, a bag of biltong or droëwors. Just please make sure it’s vegan biltong.
He won’t even know the difference, I swear.
[Watch] Valens’ Story and Advice for Father’s Day
In 2012, Valens was forced to flee violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, escaping conflict alongside his wife and two young children. Today, with help from UNHCR, he’s reclaimed his profession and established a business.
The thing his most proud of, however, is his family’s well-being and love for each other. This is his advice for other fathers, but I think it’s something we can all take to heart.
Love one another.
When you meet problems, stand firm.
If you meet good things, rejoice.