"What are you giving your father this year?" he asked me.
"My father died in 1998," I said.
Obviously embarrassed, he said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I never thought to ask."
Then without hesitation he continued, "It's just that I always have a hard time trying to find something for my father. It's not that he has everything, but whatever you give him always ends up in a drawer unused. I have this great fear that when he dies I'm going to find all my gifts for him still in the original packaging."
"I know exactly how you feel," I answered. "Each Father's Day we decided to take him out to dinner and give him a gift card to whatever store he shopped. It was really not very personal, but he liked it. He got to choose what he wanted."
"No matter what we give him, he always says the same thing, 'Oh, that's nice. You're wasting your money!'" he said, laughing. "Then he sets it aside."
"Well, it's easy for me now. I just sing for him," I told him.
"But I thought you said he was dead."
"Yes, but he's still very much alive in me," I replied. "I sing because my father sang love songs to my mother. I grew up on great music. I'm just paying him back."
"Where do you sing for him?"
"At the cemetery, of course."
"Okay..." He seemed skeptical.
"What do you sing?" he asked.
"Danny Boy. It was his favorite. It always brought tears to his eyes."
"Then I get back in my car and go home."
"Don't you feel foolish?" he asked. "I mean there must be other people around. Don't they look at you funny?"
"To tell you the truth I never pay attention to anyone else. Yes, I see them there, but this is my gift for my father. They bring flowers. I sing."
"Well," he objected, "I can't sing."
"You don't have to," I told him. "While you still have your father with you, give him your time. Sit with him. Talk to him while you can. Ask him questions about his youth, when he met your mother, his first job. What was his biggest dream? Do you know any of this?"
He thought for a moment, ran his fingers up and down the greeting cards in front of him and softly said, "No. I don't."
"There will come a time when you wish you had asked," I said.
"Come to think of it, I don't even know his favorite song," he said.
"Find out and buy it for him. Better yet, sing it with him. That, my friend, will be the greatest gift you'll ever give him. Then on that day when all the shirts and ties are found in his drawer unopened, you'll still have something to give him. If a stranger stops you in a card store and asks, you can say, 'I sing for my father.'"