There has always been an unofficial 'competition' between my sister and myself throughout our entire lives. We love one another but we do not exactly like each other very much and as a result we are continually doing a 'one-up-man-ship' between us with everything in life. We even still to this day as adults try and get one another in trouble with our parents. I know it sounds completely ridiculous and juvenile, but that is what we're like.
Having said that, Dad had another birthday two weeks ago. I am not sure how old he actually is this year however he is definitely in his seventies and also suddenly very sensitive about age and getting old. I can tell just by how he reacts to us when we were joking around.
The cold glare he gave me when I used the harmless term of 'old-timer' was enough for me to stop any further commenting of this kind.
Anyway this year I figured I would get him something better than anyone, something he actually needs instead of socks or aftershave, a ridiculous gift my sister has been seemingly giving him every year for the past thirty years or so. She clearly puts little to no effort in her shopping for our poor old dad.
Well not me. No sir, I went out and bought him something he will love. A huge selection of John Wayne movies on DVD, something I know Dad really enjoys. Second to watching his beloved war channel on TV, my Dad really loves every John Wayne movie ever made. He has probably seen every one of them a couple of times already but this never stops him from watching these again whenever the TV schedule dictates.
The excitement built as Dad was in the living room opening his gifts, I simply sat back smugly knowing that my gift would indeed be the 'king of the gifts' and once again my sister would look like the lazy & thoughtless skinflint that she truly is.
Finally there were just two gifts left and Dad first unwrapped mine. He was ecstatic and was immediately going to put in one of the old movies in the player when both Mom and Sis reminded him there was still one gift left which remained unopened.
"What a huge letdown this will be." I laughed to myself silently as outwardly I had only a huge smile on my face.
But then I couldn't believe my eyes. As Dad unwrapped the gift from my sister, it was not the expected stupid socks or boring cheap cologne - but rather a GPS system for his car.
"This is from all of us Dad." My sister gushed. "Your grand kids, Doug and me. I truly hope you like it. It is a GPS, a global positioning system that will give you vehicle directions and tell you the location you are at all times within North America."
Dad gently turned the thing over a couple of times, looking somewhat confused at what exactly this was and why he would need it. He remained silent for a moment and then spoke.
"Er, thank you, dear." He said rather slowly. "It is very much appreciated. But I think I may be a little too old to learn this new age stuff."
I could sense the hesitation in his tone that indicated he did not have a clue what this gift was even for. Before he could say anything further, Mom interjected.
"Well of course this is the perfect gift for you, Simon." Mom explained. "This will tell you how to get to a specific destination by the fastest route as well as give you directions if you are unsure of where you are driving. My friend Dorothy James got one last Christmas and she uses it all the time."
Dad still looked rather sceptical, and stared first at Mom and then over at the GPS unit and then back to Mom again.
"Directions, why should I need someone giving me directions?" Dad demanded, almost defensively. "I have been driving in this damn city for over 50 years and I think I have
a pretty good idea where everything is."
"This gives you more than just directions, Dad." Sis responded. "It will optimize your trip and tell you the fastest routes to go. It is also good for all over North America and not just here in the city of Calgary."
"I've travelled all over Canada and the U.S. without ever once needing directions." Dad replied sharply. "You kids must remember all the summer holidays when we drove out to the lake or down the coast and all over. Never once did I need a map."
Actually now that Dad reminded us of these dreaded summer vacations, the first and most vivid memories which I hold is Dad driving around lost and Mom pleading with him to pull over and ask someone for directions. Of course being the stubborn man that he was (and still is), he angrily would refuse her requests and would continue on completely lost, delaying us to our destination by hours.
I did not want to recall this out loud as I was enjoying the conversation going on and the fact Dad was not as appreciative of the gift as Sis had expected. This may sound a little bad on my part but look at it my way, how juvenile is my sister being by trying to out do me on a gift to our Dad. How old is she, five still ?
Dad then got up announcing he needed to get his glasses from the kitchen so he could read all his birthday cards. I thought this was the perfect time to 'stir the pot' a little.
"Hey Dad" I called behind him. "Go straight 15 feet and turn left and proceed 3 feet to arrive at your destination of the kitchen, HAHA. Sis seems to think you are getting a little old & need directions everywhere you go."
No one said anything but the look of anger on everyone's face in the room was enough to say I had made my point.
Dad returned to the room and then read all of his birthday cards & thanked each of us once again. He then got up and put in the movie from 1956, The Searchers, which is an old western. I figured I would add a little life to the atmosphere (as well as get in another dig) by commenting aloud "Dad, I bet John Wayne never used a GPS for his horse."
All I got was the continued cold stares from both Mom and Sis and a wave of the hand from Dad, signalling me to be quiet.
Anyway, nothing more of interest occurred the evening of Dad's birthday and all was forgotten until this past Sunday when we all got together at my folks place for dinner.
We all gobbled up an excellent roast beef with potatoes, carrots, and Yorkshire pudding dinner and were now waiting for Mom's delicious chocolate cake to be served for dessert, I thought I would bring up the GPS once again for two reasons. First to hear Dad publicly slander the gift in front of Sis and secondly in hopes he would tell me that he had no use for such a 'contraption' and I could now have it.
"So how is that GPS thingy working out for you, Dad? I asked. "Finally figured it out and been driving all over town?"
The conversation at the table between Mom and Sis and Doug suddenly stopped and everyone's eyes turned towards Dad. The room fell silent.
"Well boy" Dad began hesitantly. "I don't like to say this because I know how much of an effort your poor sister put into this fine gift, but I must be honest. It just wasn't something I could use so I put it away, back in the box."
A big smile came over my face. My plan was going brilliantly. I pretended to be both shocked & concerned and quickly responded "But Why, Dad?"
Dad seemed to be well prepared for this question as he responded with a laundry list of complaints.
"First off" Dad began. "I had it turned on when I was driving over to old Pete's place on Monday. The damn thing kept telling me to turn left across the busy intersection at the lights when if you go only one block further you can easily make the turn without a problem and arrive right away at his back door in the alley."
"It was optimizing your trip Dad." Sis advised in a rather annoying tone. "It tells you the fastest route to go."
"Nonsense" Dad snapped back. "I've been going over to old Pete's place for years and my route is the better route without a doubt."
Before Sis could make yet another embarrassing emotional statement, I quickly interjected.
"What else was the matter with it Dad?" I asked, eagerly awaiting more items. "I am curious."
"Well" Dad responded. "The little map was too small to see sitting on the dash and really what do I need a map for anyway, I know all these roads like the back of my hand."
"Of course you do, Dad" I quickly replied in agreement. "How long have you been driving in this city, fifty odd years or so, I'd bet."
Sis looked at me with pure disgust as this slow-witted woman finally caught on to the fact I was goading Dad along for my own personal benefit and gain.
"And last but not least" Dad continued. "The voice on the thing...it was some annoying females voice. Can you imagine that, a female giving ME directions in MY own city of fifty years? Ridiculous. Telling me to turn at the intersection by old Pete's place. Never heard the likes. I never took directions from your mother in over fifty years and I'm sure not about to start taking it from some strange woman inside this GPS now."
"Wow" I thought to myself. "This is way better than TV. I couldn't have made this stuff up any better than how Dad just closed off the conversation."
I now thought it was the perfect time to 'take this off Dad's hands' as clearly he had no use for this annoying piece of technology. Being the good son that I am, I would find an appreciative user for this useless and evil device.
"So Dad" I began. "What are you going to do with this damn thing? If you put it back in the box already we may as well get rid of it. I can take it if you like and are sure you are not going to use it?"
"Well that is very kind of you, boy" Dad replied. "But you are a little too late in asking, your Mother told me she could really use it herself. So if your sister does not mind...."
"No Dad" Sis responded with a newfound smile on her simple face. "I would love Mom to have it since I know she would get a lot of good use out of it.'
With that Sis looked at me and stuck her tongue out. How bloody juvenile for a grown woman with two children.
I sat there angrily as Mom announced "Yes, I can really use this for all my church and charity work when I am doing all the driving. I may have told you that Dorothy James got one last Christmas and she uses it all the time....."
"I am really starting to hate family birthdays" I thought to myself.