"What are we getting Ashley and Mason for Christmas?" I asked Sue. "They already have cellphones, video games and debit cards. Their walk-in closets are full of designer clothes. They want hand-knit sweaters and board games like they want cooties.
"What do you get the kids who have everything? Maybe we should contribute to their IRAs."
"They're 8 and 9 years old," Sue said. "They don't have IRAs."
"They probably do. Their parents get them everything else," I pointed out. "If the kids say they want something, Cory or Joanne will buy it for them on the way home from work. Every day is Christmas for those kids. What ever happened to begging Santa for months for a bicycle or a transistor radio? How can any parent top whatever they got their kids last Tuesday? It would have to involve the Neiman Marcus catalog, no doubt. Maybe a pair of solid-gold sneakers for casual Friday at school."
"What planet have you been on for the past 30 years?" Sue asked. "Every day is 'casual Friday' now. People wear Hawaiian shirts to funerals."
"Hey, I only did that once. He was a golf buddy. He wouldn't have recognized me in a suit."
"No, he wouldn't have recognized you because he was dead. His family recognized you, and they were none too happy about it. They blame you for taking up so much of his time when he was alive."
"Haven't you heard? No one on their deathbed ever says, 'Gee, I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'"
"His widow sure wishes he had spent more time at the office. If he had, she wouldn't be working two jobs right now."
"You can't put that on me. It was his life. He died with a smile on his face. At least that's what the guy driving the golf cart that killed him said. Besides, what's this got to do with Christmas presents for Cory's kids? It used to be so simple. You got kids a football or a fishing rod and they were happy. Now you have to give them a giant flat-screen TV, and even then, they pout that it's not as big as their friend's."
"Ashley and Mason already have giant flat-screen TVs," said Sue. "In their bedrooms."
"We don't even have that."
"Yes. I've noticed. It'd make a nice Christmas present for me, though, since you brought it up."
"No wonder they never come out of their rooms. Now that I think about it, why are we getting them anything? We haven't seen them in two or three years. Would they even notice?"
"They're family. We have to give them something."
"We could buy a poor kid a Christmas present in their name."
"Is that what you would want if you were 9? A card that said someone gave your gift to someone else? You can do that for me instead of the big-screen TV, but I'm a grown-up. I won't hold it against you. Kids can hold a grudge."
"When did buying a Christmas present turn into homework? This feels like taking an exam. They should take whatever they get and be happy about it, the way we were."
"But you weren't happy about it. All you ever do at Christmas is whine and complain that when you were a kid, you waited for three Christmases to get a bicycle, and that today's kids get everything. Let it go, before you turn into one of those old people who can't stand anything new," said Sue.
"The good news is that you haven't turned into a cranky old man; you've always been one. At least I know what to get you for Christmas," she said. "A new hose so you can squirt the little children who accidentally step on our lawn."