A gift that keeps giving

by Christian Bryant

There’s nothing more appropriate than a well considered gift, nothing else that can punctuate an occasion like something that truly comes from the heart. My family has always been a crew of masterful gift givers, able to keep within the realm of good graces with some presents and emerge from the depths of the doghouse with others. My dad is the king of gift-giving. He’s always been a thinker and much more compassionate than his stern visage suggests, which allows him to blow away expectations on holidays and other annual celebrations. There was one Christmas a few years ago where he characteristically stole the spotlight from everyone in the house. After a few moments of last-minute gift-wrapping and preparation, my family and I ceremoniously gathered in our foyer and sat Native American style for our respective presentations on Christmas morning. To avoid any disappointments, my siblings and I always told each other what we wanted beforehand. The only matters of great concern were getting gifts for our mother and guessing what rabbit our father would pull out of what hat for his wife. But that year, I just couldn’t make sense of the gift he gave to me. At the bottom of the steps sat what looked to be a black-and-yellow plastic toolbox. I unhooked the two metal latches, opened the top and dug around inside to reveal the contents: a 10-ounce wood-handled claw hammer, a flashlight, Buss fuses, black trashbags, a set of jumper cables, a pair of scissors, a bungee cord with metal hooks, an assortment of wrenches, all-purpose gloves, sockets, a booklet of nearly 50 screwdriver bits and a pair of road flares. I looked back at my grinning father and thought to myself, What the hell am I supposed to do with this? An excerpt found on, “a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man,” reads: “For many younger men these days, owning a well equipped toolbox is something that only their dads do. Often when these men have a project, they have to go to someone else to take care of their handyman needs. But a man should be self-reliant. He should have the tools and know-how to tackle basic projects….” Just a few weeks ago, my father and my uncle encountered car trouble on their way to help straighten out some property my father owns. The grass needed to be cut and the vehicle pulling the trailer carrying the basic lawn-maintenance machinery had blown a tire. Somehow, they got the equipment to the property, but the car was left like a gimp on the side of the road. I was summoned by my father to assist my uncle with the situation. When I arrived, my uncle was surveying the damage. The back right tire was just a rubber flap loosely draped over the wheel. A spare was visible just underneath the back bumper, but the disabled vehicle had no tools for us to set it free with. I mentioned to my uncle that I had a tool box in my car and he ordered me to retrieve it immediately. I snagged the box from the back seat and my uncle took the tools and began problem-solving. In no time, he was underneath the hobbled vehicle, tinkering away with incredible focus. Like a surgeon, he outstretched his hand asking for new tools without taking his gaze off of the chain harness holding the spare. After a few minutes, the spare tire dropped to the ground and dirt mushroomed around it in dramatic fashion. My uncle stood up, dusted himself off, let off a few relieving swear words and thanked me for providing the life-saving tool box. My part in the action was minimal at best, but the tool box was clutch. Once my uncle and I returned to the property, I approached my dad and confessed to him how useful the tool box had been to me since that Christmas morning. I told him how many times it had been used and, although I just learned the names of the instruments, how skilled I was at using them. In a roundabout way, I apologized for not knowing how great a gift I actually got. My father took it all in with an exaggerated smirk on his face while sitting high atop a riding lawnmower with some type of plowing device appended to the rear. “Well, I guess your old man knows a thing or two, huh?” he said. I nodded. Yes, he does.