The Gift Graveyard

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Gift buying for my dad was an effort in futility. And I engaged in that effort every Christmas, Father’s Day and birthday.

Because no matter how much thought you put into finding something he would like and actually use, you were destined to fail.

There was always a lack of any kind of reaction from him when he opened a gift. You couldn’t tell if he liked it, hated it, or was just indifferent.

But there was one thing you could be sure of — your gift to my dad would end up in the “gift graveyard”.

The gift graveyard, as my sisters and I would later discover, was a stash of all the gifts we ever gave my dad in a corner of his bedroom. He never even spent the money we gave him. Everybody likes a gift of money, right?

One of my sisters did hit on a winner and she gave him the same gift for every occasion — light blue Dickies overalls. And he wore them. All the time. I think he liked them because they were loose enough to be comfortable and easy enough to work in. So when you hit on a winner, you stick with it.

But the rest of us suffered the inevitable fate of never seeing our gifts to my dad ever again.

I don’t know why I kept trying to find something new and different that he would like and use. I always failed at that. Just like I thought I failed at making him proud of me.

Many times I’ve wondered about that gift graveyard and why it existed. My sisters and I joked about the fact that every gift we gave my dad would end up there. But why?

My dad was born just before the Great Depression. He lived with his brother and parents on our family farm. He had very little material possessions growing up and life was hard.

He did very well in school but never went beyond high school. My parents, my sisters, and I lived with my paternal grandparents in a large white farmhouse. While my dad was very close to my grandmother, we realized early in life that he and my grandfather were always “at odds” with each other.

A fiercely independent man, my dad never took handouts. He worked very hard to provide for my family. And we lived on that.

After he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 85, he only lived about a week. That June in 2007, he ate his last meal at the table on Father’s Day, celebrated 60 years of marriage to my mother, and celebrated this 85th birthday.

He slept in his recliner because he was too weak and in too much pain to get in his bed. A hospital bed was brought in and placed near his recliner, but he refused to get in it.

While helping my mother take care of him in his last days, I finally insisted that he get into the hospital bed. He had gotten so weak that my mother, sisters, and I could not handle moving him.

I had never in my life told my dad what to do, and I was surprised when he actually complied.

I know why he didn’t want to get into the bed. He knew he would never get out of it. And he also knew he was giving up his last bit of independence. He hated being dependent on anyone but himself.

And now, I finally think I understand the gift graveyard.

Giving someone a gift is from a position of power.

Even though you might think of gift-giving as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation for the person to whom the gift is given, it can create a feeling of indebtedness to the giver. It creates a need for reciprocity, something my dad wanted no part of.

I also think I finally understand my dad’s inability to express his feelings of love and pride in his family. But I know he felt that love and pride.

The mystery of the gift graveyard is solved and understood. And it’s okay now.

I’m Vicki Peel, a retired educator, proud grandmother and blogger. As a former high school home economics teacher, I started H.E.R. Life Hacks to share my expertise in areas of home-style, lifestyle, and food. H.E.R. stands for Home Economics Reimagined. Inner peace and self-care have never been more important than now. Download my free report, Self-Care Hacks at



Is life peaceful & intentional? A retired educator & HGTV fan, I reimagined home economics for today’s world. Claim your Self-Care Hacks at

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Vicki Peel

Vicki Peel


Is life peaceful & intentional? A retired educator & HGTV fan, I reimagined home economics for today’s world. Claim your Self-Care Hacks at