The Gift Conundrum


2018 will be a milestone year for my parents. Dad turns sixty in July, Mom turns sixty in December, and they will celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary in August.

The problem? I haven’t a clue what to buy or do to celebrate these events.

Some people seem to have a knack for gift-giving. And I don’t think I’m one of them. And each event comes with its own set of tricky circumstances that make gift-giving that much harder.

So I’m reaching out to my readers to see if any of them can come up with any ideas. Because despite my creativity, I’m that desperate.

Buying a gift for my dad has always been difficult. No matter the occasion (birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas), if you ask what he wants, he’ll reply, “Socks and underwear.” Really?

Someone once described my dad as, “Something else,” and that’s quite possibly the best description possible. There’s no one like him. He’s loud, unapologetic, and full of sarcasm, dad jokes, and bizarre antidotes. But he’s also the hardest working person I’ve ever met and the best dad a girl could ask for. Though horribly stubborn and at times overbearing, he always has the best intentions. But he’s hard to shop for because he doesn’t really do any of the typical “dad/man” things. He doesn’t work in an office or wear a tie (or even dress shirts). He doesn’t golf or grill, he isn’t a fan of craft beer (this yinzer prefers a can of Miller Lite), and he doesn’t use fancy cologne or shaving products. And although he’s a die hard Pittsburgh sports fan, he’s not really into wearing team jerseys or even t-shirts. Dad has worked maintenance and construction for most of his life, so he owns every power tool known to man. At one time he dreamed of owning a Harley Davidson, but that’s a bit rich for my current pocketbook. Recently, he’s been saying he wants a tattoo to honor his own late father, but I’m pretty sure my mom would actually kill him if he went through with it.
There’s also the fact that his birthday is, like, a month after father’s day.


Shopping for Mom is complicated for different reasons. She’s the complete opposite of my dad – quiet, shy, and rather reserved. But she’s also one of the strongest people I know. Mom has had an autoimmune disease since I was five. The disease damaged her kidneys and she was forced to go on dialysis in 2005. After nine years on the waiting list, she finally got a transplant in early 2015. This journey was wrought with complications – physical, emotional, and financial – but mom somehow managed to keep a positive attitude through it all. But because of her health problems, it’s hard for her to enjoy the things most other women do – beauty and fashion is difficult because of what the disease has done to her body, and traveling or walking long distances are hard on her sensitive feet and legs. Even something like a massage or spa treatment is complicated because of her long list of medications and complicated health issues. She doesn’t really wear jewelry, can’t enjoy too much alcohol, and tires easily. She likes nature, reading, and traveling, but you can only give someone so many books and bird feeders and birdbaths before it gets a little old.
There’s also the fact that her birthday is exactly one week before Christmas.


The anniversary of these two diverse people is a third challenge. Whenever I think about my parents spending time together for any anniversary, I reference a scene in Back to the Future where Doc is asking Marty how to get his parents to date each other when they travel back in time to 1955.

“They’re your parents,” Doc says to a desperate Marty. “What do they like to do together? What are their common interests?”

Marty pulls a strangled face. “Nothing,” he responds, as though it were the most obvious and natural thing in the world.


Sometimes I don’t know how my parents fell for each other. To be honest, sometimes I don’t know how they’ve managed to stay together for thirty-five years, if only for the simple fact that they seem to quite literally come from different planets. So finding something to do to celebrate that triumph is becoming quite the conundrum.  I’ve thought about throwing them a surprise party, but their circle of friends isn’t very big. And again, my budget is rather small. I’ve thought about sending them on a trip, but their interests are so varied I can’t think of a (budget friendly) place to send them to that they’d both enjoy.


Any ideas?






One thought on “The Gift Conundrum

  1. I am, like you, terrible about giving gifts. My sister is amazing at it (to her credit, she also spends a lot of time browsing for ideas). I read this last night and bookmarked it to reply this morning to see if I could come up with any ideas. For your dad, does he like cartoon books? My dad has some far side cartoons books and also books with weird facts (one title is “do Penguins have knees”). For their anniversary, could you give them tickets to a play? We have two theatres near where I live, but I don’t know if that’s an option for you. I’m having a tough time for mom(my eternal struggle…) does she like plants? Maybe a cactus or airplane container garden to keep inside?

    Otherwise, I spend HOURS searching Pinterest for ideas ……

    Good luck!


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