Chances are, your dad is a baby boomer or even older. With people living longer these days and more and more boomers hitting retirement age, the infamous Father's Day blue striped tie probably isn't the right gift for your still quite active father.
Sixty is the new 40, and 80 might as well be the new 60. What better symbol of the active, aging father than President George H.W. Bush, who jumps out of airplanes in his mid-80s? Our aging fathers do not need more things.
Intangibles. That's the ticket. Father's Day gifts should be consumables, which can be eaten, used, spent, sipped or enjoyed. No dust catchers for later generations to sort, no hideous Necktie of the Month Club ties.
If Wally and the Beav had given traditional father Ward Clever gifts from the five categories we'll look at, he might have been disappointed. But your modern dad would love getting such gifts.
Fathers with established hobbies are usually inundated with hobby-related gifts. How many baseball hats or golf balls can one man have?
If your dad plays golf, what better gift than tee-times? Many public clubs offer gift certificates. Even if you are a duffer, why not line up a tee-time or two with dear old dad? If he belongs to a private club, consider purchasing cart rentals or other extras that don't come with membership.
For the avid spectator sportsman, check out special sports packages. Most cable companies offer individual games or game packages. If your dad can't afford such premium sports channels, wouldn't that be a great gift?
Attending a baseball game is a summer American tradition, and the new MLB ballparks all across the country offer up an afternoon of total fun. Buy Dad tickets and pick up the food tab. After all, nothing tastes more like summer than a ballpark hot dog covered with onions and relish.
But, what if your dad doesn't like sports?
Planes, trains and automobiles
Older adults have time to travel. Send your Dad on a trip to his hometown. Better yet, go with him, or send the grandchildren. You might be able to use your own hotel points for lodging and airline points for travel.
If your parent lives in a major city, a subway or bus card is a great gift.
With gas prices soaring this summer, a gift certificate for gasoline or an oil change tucked in a Father's Day card is a thoughtful, useful gift for the father who still takes a Sunday drive.
If life has been very good to you, why not send your dad on an extended tour to someplace he's always dreamed of seeing? Didn't he pack you and your siblings up in the Chevy and drive to the Grand Canyon? Smithsonian Journeys offers upscale tours all over the world.
Tours are rated by intensity and activity level, so be sure to choose one appropriate to his age and fitness.
Revenge of the nerds
For the Dad who's been on a computer run since Univac, there are many intangible gift items. BlackBerry, iPhone and Android all offer gift certificates for apps.
Maybe Dad is dying to play retro "Frogger" or the hot new "Angry Birds," both available as apps. Of course, that's when he's not playing chess at the dining room table with his pal, that Walter Matthau-lookalike.
Make sure Dad has good anti-virus and security software. Check with your own computer experts for the right system. Enhance the gift by overseeing the installation and cleaning up Dad's system. Make it a malware free Father's Day!
Buy Dad an external hard drive and if he doesn't know how, back up his system for him and set up the software to do regular back-ups.
Digitize family pictures and put them on Dad's computer. Help him set up email and social networking with family members. If Dad is a collector of family treasures, sort through and label items with an archival-quality pen.
Give him a subscription to Ancestry.com, so he can research his predecessors and determine if Uncle Fred was indeed a fife player for the Yanks.
How about GO phone or Jitterbug phone minutes, so Dad can call those long-distance family members? And have your son, the engineering major, program the phone for Grandpa to make it super easy.
Time with Dad is precious, and someday you'll be very glad you did these things, and so will your children.
On Golden Pond
For fathers over 80, there's a chance they may live in assisted living or a retirement home.
Such facilities often have onsite barbers with gift certificates. Many offer occasional bus trips for an extra fee. If Dad isn't driving anymore, pay for taxis or a car service to take him where he wants to go.
If Dad can't travel, bring family members to him. That's another good use for your frequent flier points: to fly in his sister from St. Louis who he hasn't seen for five years.
Program his television remote, and make an easy-to-read instruction to reprogram, using 14-point type that older eyes can easily read.
All these gifts have one thing in common, your involvement. Dad doesn't want more socks, he wants time with you! Make sure your Dad knows that "He's the Greatest!" this Father's Day.