I often have a hard time shopping for presents for members of my family. My mum's taste in jewellery and clothing is so picky that unless she picks out exactly what to get her (and even sometimes if she does) she will either return the gift or just never wear it. She'll say she loves a movie or album, but won't watch or listen to it if you get it for her. If you get her a book, she'll read it then take it to a used book store and exchange it for something else. My sister's tastes are so obsessive and rapidly changing that the only thing to get her are dvds. And I just don't know other members of my family well enough to get them gifts they'll like.
But not with my dad. My dad and I have always been close, and I've always been able to be inspired to get him gifts I know he'll enjoyl; gifts that will mean something to him. A few years ago he gave me his old favourite science fiction books, save one. This book was his favourite, and it was a loan only. It was Nine Tomorrows, a paperback collection of short stories by Isaac Aasimov that had been out of print for several decades. His favourite short story, "The Last Question," was in it, and I recommend it to all of you to read. He warned me not to lose it under any circumstances. I loved it, of course. Against his warning, I shared it with a friend, and promptly lost it. Often when we talk about "The Last Question," he'll muse about where his copy is, and every time I feel a wave of shame when I have to admit that "I think I lost it, I don't know for sure. I can't find it anyway." I always felt like I disappointed him somehow.
But this year is the year I make it up to him. I have located in California a first edition hardcover of Nine Tomorrows, in good condition, with the original dustjacket. It cost more than I usually spend on family gifts, but this is my dad. He's worth it.
My dad taught me to unwrap presents meticulously and neatly fold the wrapping paper, but I don't think he'll be able to keep from ripping it a little. I can't wait to give him a big hug and apologize for the grief I put him through, and just tell him I love him. I can't wait to see his smile. I can't wait.