Anniversary Gifts for Homebound Parents
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Dear Great and Powerful Amalah,
This question doesn’t have anything to do with beauty routines or sweet-smelling babies or even crabby in-laws, but I do hope you and your readers can help me. From your blog I see that your father has struggled with health issues this past year (I so hope he is doing well now!). This year has also been a trial for my family, particularly my mother, who has seen my father through a very serious illness that has left him with limited mobility, requiring the use of a walker. Their 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few months, and I really want to do something special for them, but I have not a single good idea! I thought of sending them away on a long weekend, but I don’t think my father would feel comfortable traveling in his new state of disability. They also say they don’t want a party, though they will be renewing their vows after a church service (probably to my father’s embarrassment, as he is a great introvert). I want to do something truly meaningful, to show how much I love and appreciate them. Plus, after this awful year, they truly deserve something wonderful. My budget could be up to $750. Please help me in my gift-giving desperation!
A Grateful Daughter
Okay! A few ideas, and now that I’ve thought of them, I really need to get going on for my own parents, who are really in the exact same place as yours. (Why haven’t I? I don’t know! I have shamed myself! An Advice Smackdown first!) My dad is…well, some days are better than others. (Days without another freaking bout of pneumonia are the best!) Here are some thoughts on how to make an anniversary one of those better days…or give them a series of better days.
1) A photo book with photo restoration service. Your parents probably have a lot of old photos, no? Albums full of yellowing baby photos and faded family vacation pics? Sneak in, steal them. Get them restored and color-corrected and preserved digitally. This can be by an actual photo restoration service, though many professional photographers also offer it, or just someone you know who is a whiz at Photoshop. THEN, create a new photo book for them. Sort through the photos and find your favorite childhood memories, or ones of them while they were dating, or some other story. I made photo books for family this Christmas at Shutterfly (disclosure: I was given one free one as part of an ad campaign, then paid for the additional books) and they were a HUGE hit. My parents are adamant that they do not want or need any additional “stuff,” so photo books are a nice small thing that feels big. (Another photo-centric idea: a web-enabled digital photo frame. If your parents have wifi the frame can connect to an online photo album and fetch new photos you [and other family members] have uploaded, so your parents can always see the latest pictures of grandkids and such.)
2) Maid service. Your mom is likely exhausted from taking care of your dad. Your dad is likely frustrated that he can no longer do things like run the vacuum and very aware that your mom is the only one who can clean the toilets. Depending on where they live, that $750 could get them several months’ worth of biweekly visits. (This is also a good one to go into with siblings or other family members looking to make day-to-day life easier for them.)
3) Every delivery service you can think of. So this might not pack the kind of meaningful emotional whallop you were aiming for, but it’s another one with almost daily impact. Whenever I talk to my mom I’m always struck by how a simple trip to the pharmacy takes insane amounts of planning for her, since it’s too hard for my dad to come along but leaving him alone in the house isn’t ideal either (what if he fell? what if his heart acts up? what if what if what if?) Sign them up (and teach them how to use) a DVD service like Netflix and a book swap site like Paperback Swap. Set up recurring deliveries for stuff like pet food, basic groceries, etc. Coffee, wine, cheese of the month clubs…whatever they like. Get it delivered right to their door so the stress of running errands is minimized as much as possible.
4) An in-home dinner with a private chef. Going out to eat is REALLY hard for someone with limited mobility. (My dad still has to cart an oxygen tank everywhere too, in addition to a cane or walker.) But if that was ever one of their favorite things to do — or at least their go-to plan for celebrating special occasions — they probably miss it. Find a private chef that specializes in their favorite cuisine (or one they had on vacation, if they ever traveled abroad), or call their favorite restaurant and see if they’d be willing to help you out. Places that offer cooking classes are another good place to start, since many of them are taught by private chefs who do this sort of thing all the time. This way they can have an amazing anniversary dinner without the hassle of cooking OR having to really be reminded of your dad’s limitations. In addition to the dinner, have flowers delivered and a mix CD of their favorite songs to play during the meal.
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