As Father’s Day approached this year, I had no fear. Unlike many years, when I had no clue what I could give my gift-averse husband, I thought I had the gift thing in the bag. This was no easy trick. Longtime readers will be familiar with the occasional column in which I work out my frustration at buying clothing for my husband, only to have to return the shirt/jacket/pants because the man insisted that “he didn’t need it” or found it not quite to his taste. I suppose it’s very nice to have such an unmaterialistic husband, one who sees the good in everyone and even in every item in his closet. This has forced me to point out frayed collars and shirts that have grown as sheer as flimsy gauze after thousands of washings.
Do you have any idea what sort of Herculean self-control it took for me not to chortle out loud and spit my seltzer across the room when my husband called to report that he had split his pants bending over at a job site? He had not outgrown the pants, but the pants had announced their retirement at an inopportune moment. I value my marriage too much to have said, “Serves you right!” but don’t think I wasn’t tempted. So what did he do? He untucked his shirt to cover up and kept working. Though frankly, I’m surprised that no one asked him where he bought the pants. Few things are more trendy today than brand new clothes that look like they’ve been through the shredder. They cost twice what clothes that are still materially intact cost. We are too old-fashioned to think giant air vents in our clothing are going to be a flattering look for either of us.
But it wasn’t pants I had in my sights; it was a hat. Jeff’s daily hat of choice, a once-elegant topper he got from a customer long ago, also had signs of terminal wear and tear. Voila! I ran out and bought him a new hat, saving it for Father’s Day. But two weeks before the big day, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Unable to contain my excitement, and wanting to lift his spirits after a terribly aggravating day at work, I presented him with the box. Even I had to admit the fit of the hat was a bit off. He promised me that on Father’s Day we’d exchange it at the hat store.
And then, the man who can’t stand shopping has the chutzpah to text me a photo of himself — Friday before Father’s Day — wearing a big smile and a new hat. He boasted that he bought not one, but two new hats at an outdoor kiosk. “Now we don’t have to go shopping!” he said, like that was a good thing.
My husband after an unexpected moment of retail therapy. My gift plans are foiled again!
Well, he may be hard to buy for (except books, so thank goodness for that!) but I salute my husband as one fantastic husband and father. In today’s world, where we read and hear of so many stories about absent fathers, uncaring fathers, fathers who walk out on their families, my husband is the old-fashioned kind of man, in the very best sense of the phrase. He is unstintingly dedicated, loving, patient, and hard-working. He has taught the kids through example that building a successful marriage, putting God and family before yourself, commitment to spiritual growth, and of course, relaxing with music and a glass of fine wine, are all keys to a happy and meaningful life. He’s taught them wise aphorisms such as “Work before play,” “Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing,” “Ask the Almighty to help give you clarity,” “Remember that we have so much more in common than what may divide us,” and, my personal favorite, “We’ll do whatever Mom says.”
So honey, this column’s for you. I forgive you for making me return yet another present. I guess we’ll fire up the grill, put some beers in the fridge, and have a barbeque.
Happy Father’s Day!
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“This marvelous book should connect with the widest possible readership – ferociously religious or fervently secular; Jewish, Christian or humanist; baby boomer, Gen X’er or millennial . . . Judy’s relationship with Judaism comes across as a serious romance, but one that raises as many new life questions as it settles. The call to ‘rules, rituals and restraint’ that she associates with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, her teacher (and mine), don’t bring an end to thinking and choosing but provide a means to think more deeply and choose more richly.” — Michael Medved, author of The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic
“Judy Gruen writes with down-to-earth warmth and humor about her personal spiritual journey. As she navigates family, friendship, love, loss, parenting, and community, you will root for her like you would cheer on a new best friend―someone who you just know somehow cares for and understands you, too.” —Lori Palatnik, founding director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project
“Judy Gruen shares a message of sanity so vital today: you can be spiritual, sane and yourself in the modern world. She writes with delightful humor and depth about her unexpected path to a life of Jewish commitment.” — Rabbi David Aaron, author of The God-Powered Life
— Michael Medved, author of The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic