Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Pretty Pathetic Mother's Day Appeal

Mother’s Day in the United States is this coming Sunday, and I am totally stuck.
A little background: I am terrible at gift-giving. Really, really bad.  It is my instinct to give practical, useful gifts, because that is what I would want. If I get a package of fresh razors for my birthday, I am quite content.  A lot of my guy friends feel the same way, but I’ve learned that many women do not.  At all.  Once, when I was in my mid-20s, I gave my girlfriend a blender for her birthday.  She liked to make mixed drinks for parties, and her blender was on its last legs.  It seemed like a total slam dunk to me.

I still have the scars. From time to time, my friends from that time in my life will still call or write, asking “Hey, remember that time you actually gave *girlfriend* a blender? That was a riot!”

It was not a riot.  Just sayin’.

Consequently, when I find some kind of thing that works well as a gift for a woman in my life, I ride that horse just as far as I can until it drops.  This year, one of the horses dropped.  I have all the ladies I need to buy for taken care of except one. 

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have gotten my grandmother a large hanging fuchsia plant for Mother’s Day.  She loves fuchsias, and they have always looked great hanging from a shepherd’s hook in her yard.  She also loves the tradition of it.  Every Mother’s Day, she gets a fuchsia from me, like clockwork.  Gram acts surprised, makes a big deal out of it, faithfully hangs it outside and prunes the “deadheads” all summer, and generally enjoys her fuchsia until the first frost, when she moves it inside.  Most of the fuchsias don’t make it through the winter in the house, but that’s okay.  She knows another Mother’s Day is coming, and another fuchsia plant is on the way from me.

Trouble is, Gram has moved recently.  She’s 86, and has been having an increasingly hard time living on her own, so she has moved into a very nice but fairly small assisted-living apartment.  It’s on the second floor, so there is no yard.  The apartment is small and the accumulated items of a lifetime from her house are there.  It seems like she’s got everything she needs, and space is at a premium.  

So a fuchsia is out this year.  Dammit.

She used to keep an aquarium at her house, and buying fish and accessories has been a good  plan for me on other holidays.  But the fish didn’t make the move with her to the apartment.  My grandmother likes birds, so I have gotten her bird feeders in the past.  That’s a no-go in a second floor apartment too.  Same with lawn ornaments, garden flags, wind chimes, and every other great gift idea I’ve ever had for her.

Her eyes aren’t what they used to be, so books are not a good choice.  She likes her television and landline telephone, but is not very technological beyond that.  She loves her little dog, but he’s got more “stuff” of his own than any canine I’ve ever met. Gram doesn’t cook much for herself anymore.  She tires easily, so certificates for shopping, dining or events would be kind of a crapshoot.  She’s on a restricted diet, so sweets and treats are not a great idea.  I wouldn't have the slightest idea of what to get her for clothing.  (It's nothing short of a miracle I can buy clothes for myself.)  And frankly, she’s a bit forgetful at times, so something like scented candles would be no good.

I have wandered aimlessly through a plethora of stores over these past few days, looking for all the world like a lost puppy.  Nothing jumped out at me as a good idea for my grandmother’s Mother’s Day gift.  Frequently, female sales clerks would come up to me, place a gentle hand on my arm, give me a sympathetic look, and say things like “Oh darling, you look like you really need some help.”  I would dutifully follow them around, taking in their suggestions, but nothing seemed right.

Gram was like a third parent to me and my siblings growing up, and always spoiled us rotten.  I enjoy trying to do the same with her in her old age, but I am stumped.  Completely baffled.

Help me out here people!  I’ve got 99 hours until Mother’s Day as of this posting. What do I get my 86-year-old grandmother for Mother’s Day?

UPDATE: Thanks for the ideas I got in the comments, and also via e-mail and Twitter.  I went with two suggestions.  First, I got some individual fuchsia plants and transplanted them into a small decorative container that would fit nicely in my grandmother's home.  And secondly, I did take a little extra time to just be with her and enjoy her company, which is something I really ought to do every day if I can.  Again, thanks so much for your help, faithful readers!


  1. What about audio books? My mother-in-law LOVES audio books and a player is easy to operate for even the most limited technologically skilled person. Favorite movies? Particularly old movies that she may not have seen in many years? Music?

  2. Dude, read her this (points up) and spend time with her - gifts mean shit at her age - it's your attention and affection she'll appreciate

  3. I gotta go with Mike on this one. More stuff is the last thing she needs. Come spend a good bit of the day with her, playing checkers or something. Or maybe one of those digital picture frames with a shitload of old pictures of you load in it.