The last thing on Brandon Prince's mind this Father's Day is an ugly tie. Or socks. Or boxer shorts. Prince, 27, is thinking about three sets of onesies. Plenty of booties. A triple stroller and three car seats. And just how many diapers his new triplets will go through in one day. Prince's girlfriend Betty Jackson, 28, delivered three girls at 4:57 p.m. Thursday at Spring Hill Regional.
First came Anabelle, then Savannah and Isabella.
It's going to be a full house for the Brooksville couple — Jackson has an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. They have received plenty of presents from family and friends in the form of baby supplies.
The triplets — born at 33 weeks — were pink and wailing in the neonatel intensive care unit Friday afternoon. Prince, a mechanic who once rebuilt a 350 V-8 engine for his dad's '72 Camaro as a Father's Day gift, has years of presents ahead of him.
But as far as gifts go, it might be all downhill from here.
"My gift from them is that they're here and healthy," he said. "That's the best gift I can get."
Fathers interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times this week remember Father's Days of dreadful presents and perfect ones.
And they can all relate to Prince's sentiment.
Dr. Thomas Mathews once opened a gift box on the third Sunday in June and found a tie.
It turned out well, though, for the 42-year-old Brooksville Regional Hospital cardiologist and father of two teenage boys. Mathews still proudly sports the tie — and not out of obligation. It's from Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post series and features a doctor holding a stethoscope to the chest of a baby doll offered by a little girl.
"I wear it often," Mathews said. "A lot of patients of have recognized it."
His boys — Akshay is in high school and Adithya is studying premed at the University of South Florida — don't usually have much money to spend on a gift. So their mom, Polly, pays, but the boys offer plenty of input, Mathews said.
"They always find something unique and different," he said.
Last year, they used one of the tried-and-true gift strategies: Buy something your loved one has had his eye on but denied himself because of the cost. For Mathews, it was a black and silver Montblanc pen.
But the best gifts from his sons seem to come unintentionally.
Not long ago, as Adithya filled out college applications, an essay question asked him why he wanted to become a doctor. His answer, as Mathews recalls it: I've watched how my dad has influenced lives.
As an on-call physician who is often on the go, Mathews had found himself wondering if he were home enough.
"But then they reaffirm that they respect you, and their lives will mold after you," he said. "It's like, oh, wow, what better gift can you ask for?"
Steve Parker doesn't hold a grudge for the Happy Meal glass.
After all, it was nearly three decades ago that one of the Weeki Wachee resident's two young sons wrapped the free collector's glass that came with the McDonald's meal, presented it to Parker and said, "Happy Father's Day." He forgets whether it featured the Hamburglar or Mayor McCheese or Grimace.
His boys, Greg and Chris, made up for it over the years. The 57-year-old account manager for a snack food company still uses the fishing rod and Abu Garcia Baitcast reel he got several Father's Days ago.
Now, Greg, a 34-year-old Marine captain and pilot, is bound for a three-year tour in Okinawa, Japan. His wife, Bridget, and 3-year-old son will live with him there. The family has been staying with Parker and his wife, Patti, as they make preparations for the overseas move.
The family stretched Father's Day into a week, with plenty of time for father-son bonding: kayaking the Weeki Wachee; cheering the Rays at the Trop; and Greg's gift to his dad, fishing in the deep Gulf on a boat chartered out of Hernando Beach.
"We tried to catch up on a lot of things before he left," Steve said.
He's gotten ties and tools. But none compare to a present that can't be wrapped: Pride.
"The best gift is having a Marine captain for a son," he said. "It's kind of like the gift that keeps on giving.
Horace Hall asked that the Times not mention the riding mower.
It's something the 68-year-old retired factory worker from Brooksville could use, but he doesn't expect it from his son, Andrew, who also lives in Brooksville.
"I do need it, but it's too much," Hall said. "I don't want him to read this and think I'm asking for it."
Hall, who also has two daughters who live up North, says his kids don't owe him anything.
Andrew has taken him to ball games, and he gets gift cards from his daughters when they can't visit.
"(The gift cards are) usually for a restaurant, because they know I got to eat," he said. "And I like to eat."
It might be cheesy, but it really is the thought that counts, he said.
"If they call or send something, they're thinking of you."
Tony Marrero can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431.