5 Bad 1980s Mother’s Day Gifts My Dad Actually Survived

If you have a mother, are a mother, or are married to a mother, you’ve undoubtedly run into the issue of bad Mother’s Day gifts over the years.

Sometimes, despite your (or their) best efforts, the stuff you buy or make for Mom just misses the target.

And sometimes, they don’t even consider the target at all.

Now, my parents lived pretty simple lives when I was growing up, and they were (and are) happy with each other, but …

My Dad was great … great … at giving bad Mother’s Day gifts.

How great? How bad?

Well, consider these eight stinkers — bad Mother’s Day gifts that might have ended a mere mortal.

Nothing

This was pretty standard.

“We don’t buy for each other, ” Mom and Dad always told me. And I was OK with that mantra since, ostensibly at least, it meant more for me.

And Dad stuck to these guns on Mother’s Day, mostly, with the exceptions noted above and (especially) below.

“She’s not my mother.”

Right.

A Baseball Game

Dad wasn’t a baseball fan when I was growing up.

Mom sure wasn’t a baseball fan.

But when I was 12, I decided I was a huge baseball fan. And I pestered my parents all winter and spring about going to a real, live Major League Baseball game.

Finally, as May approached and sick of my angling, Dad found a way to satisfy my yearnings and still mostly fit the trip into our budget …

Wouldn’t a trip to the ballpark make a great Mother’s Day gift?

Uh … well … I sure enjoyed it.

Charcoal

At some point went I was under 10, we got one of those flimsy backyard grills — you know, the ones with aluminum legs, a painted aluminum body, and no controls.

Basically a caveman’s Dutch oven on stilts.

Cool … we were going to cook out all the time.

Except we didn’t, because … well, because we didn’t, and also because we never had charcoal.

So one Mother’s Day, my dad splurged on a bag of charcoal, and mom was able to cook us up a batch of hot dogs and (maybe) hamburgers.

It was a real treat for her.

A Boulder

Mom liked flowers and, to his credit, Dad did a great job of building various flower beds for her around the yard.

It was never anything fancy, but he’d cut out the sod and fill in the area with gravel (we lived on a gravel road … not saying, but …).

She’d buy flowers at the store and work her way through the rocks, or we’d all just enjoy the “clean” look of the gravel gardens.

One Mother’s Day morning, though, Dad was outside when Mom and I woke up, and it didn’t take long to figure out where he was — outside digging up a huge boulder from an adjacent field.

He wheeled it to one of the gardens in a wheelbarrow and plopped it down — instant Mother’s Day gift!

Badminton Rackets

I was never an athlete, and neither was Mom.

But Dad was, in high school and college, and you could always tell he missed that competitive high.

So when I showed even a whit of interest in any sport, he dug in.

One Easter, I got some shuttlecocks and we dug up some old badminton rackets, and the three of us spent a couple hours pounding the line like we were Ivan Lendl.

Dad kept nudging me to play more whenever we had the chance, so I did, and soon we broke the rackets.

Luckily, Mother’s Day loomed just ahead, so what better gift for Mom than a set of replacements?

A Dilapidated Trailer

For about a year, we lived in a trailer (mobile home, for those in more sophisticated geographic regions).

It was all fine until an early tornado tore through and dropped a huge tree right in our living room. It was a trailer, and we lived near a tree, so it was inevitable.

The place was a total loss.

Except … Dad didn’t think so, and he surprised Mom with the big news on Mother’s Day — he was going to be able to fix the damage, and we could move back in !

Truth be told, Dad barely survived this one, and we didn’t end up moving back into the trailer.

But the news stood as Mom’s gift.

A Day at Work

In the years around “The Trailer Incident,” Mom and Dad ran the only restaurant in our little community.

Dad worked all day, and all week, driving a truck, then would spend whatever time he could at night helping Mom prepare for the next day.

She ran the place during the week, and he pitched in on the weekend.

And Mother’s Day … well, just another day at work. A big day at work, in fact, because Mom’s need to be treated special that day.

So Mom got the gift of going to work and making a little money, all in the service of other mothers.

A Dog Shave

May in Indiana is a mixed bag, weather-wise, just like every other month. On the whole, though, the fifth month brings warming temperatures.

Sometimes even hot temperatures.

One year, the temps spiked in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, and Mom told Dad she thought the dog was hot.

And by that stroke of serendipity, Dad knew what to get Mom that year — he’d shave the dog!

So, on a sunny May Sunday afternoon, Dad hunkered down on the back stoop with the dog and our hair clippers (ours, as in the ones he used to cut my hair).

Dad managed to burr the dog’s hair down to a military cut in an oval on his side before the mongrel decided he’d had enough and ended the encounter in a hurry.

Mom got to look at her Mother’s Day gift all summer that year, as the dog’s bald spot filled back in.

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