Presents for me are always from my mom. I open them up and my dad looks over and excitedly says, "What'd I get you?!"
In his defense, he bought me a sapphire necklace about 10 years ago for Christmas, and another time when I was in the hospital I sent him to the gift shop for a toothbrush and he bought me a very small stuffed bear. But other than that, presents from my dad are A) scarce and B) random.
Umm, thanks, Dad, for the... pliers?
I'm glad you like them. I saw them at an auction and thought of you.
But this year he kept saying he had a birthday present for me... and that it was "starting to smell."
Usually my mom tips me off to any strange presents he might send my way so my reaction isn't one of complete bewilderment.
She was silent this year when I pressed her.
Last weekend he stood beside me as I unwrapped my birthday present. When he told me to be careful cutting the tape off the box I envisioned god knows what oozing out from the puncture wound, smelling like rotten garbage and prepping for my "ooh, what a nice surprise!" face.
Then, I was legitimately surprised.
He'd made me an afghan. I'd forgotten that during the hunting off-season last winter he'd started crocheting again after a one-off afghan he made 20 years ago.
And there it was. I was smitten. He made my porch swing, has built me bookshelves and flower boxes and countless picture frames and stands. Those things are what he does. This is different.
I don't think I've ever loved a present a more. I gushed over it sincerely and even admired his color choices, black and gray, to better hide cat hair.
Initially he had plans to make all three of his sisters one, my mom's two sisters one and me one. But that was before the afghan meltdown of 2010, where stitching turned to bitching and he had to redo all of his work - twice.
He thought he was getting faster. At first it took him 40 minutes to complete a row, then 35, then 30. Before long he was down to 20 minutes per row.
But when he was nearly finished and finally spread it all out on the living room floor my mom goes, "Why is one side shorter than the other?"
"Damn it all, Gina Lynn," he told me. "I wasn't getting faster, I was dropping stitches!"
There's a sentence I never thought I'd hear my masculine old man say.
So he pulled it out and started over.
The ladies at Jo-Anne Fabrics thought he was buying yarn for his wife and adored how sweet he was to shop for her at the craft store. When they found it was him doing the crocheting they admired his diversity and told him, "Isn't crocheting so relaxing!"
"Bullshit," he said. "I can't watch TV while I'm doing it, I got two blisters and my rows got all messed up."
Then he grabbed his bag of yarn and walked out with an, "Afternoon, ladies."
I bet they are still gossiping about him.
"I hope you like it because I'm not making anymore," he told me. "I'd die of old age as long as it took me make that one." Then he added he'll be spending this winter where he belongs, in the garage sawing wood and making knife cases and porch swings.