Helping her father find happiness was alway of upmost importance to Carla, particularly after he was widowed.
It was bothering me. Every holiday or birthday when we gathered to present my dad with gifts, he’d inevitably end up with multiple fifths of ginger brandy. He liked a little nip now and then and it was an easy go-to gift. A good sport, he would always hoot and lift the bottle high and we’d react as if he was receiving an Oscar.
Although fun, I started wondering if we were just being lazy. For a man who seemed to have everything, except my beloved mother who we lost two years back, you could not blame us for giving something familiar, but he now lived alone and I was starting to see other opportunities and ways we could give to Dad other than a fifth of his choice spirits.
So I compiled the following fun and helpful ideas for widowed dads in hopes of spurring readers on to more creative gift giving. These gifts are not just something you hand dear old dad, they are gifts that involve you which is what he really wants and needs as he grows older alone.
1. Offer to Help
How about giving the gift of help? There is much inside and outside work that needs to be done for older fathers who live alone and still have houses. Assistance with painting, spring cleaning or other household projects is a great way to appreciate dad. No offense, but sometimes it is a woman who notices that the curtains are getting old or that the woodwork needs polishing. Showing up with the materials and pitching in is a gift seldom turned down.
Assisting with landscaping, lawn mowing, trimming, and other outside projects can be a huge help. Providing flowers, mulch, and other gardening essentials is your way of saying, "We got this covered, pop".
Helping gifts are not for everyone as some people naturally take care of their aging parents and this would be no different. As people age though, help is certainly appreciated and pitching in not only provides a parent with much needed assistance, it gives them time with what they prize most - their children.
According to an article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times, "...[experts] have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Indeed, psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift."
2. Do an Activity He Enjoys Together
Remember how your dad loved to fish? How long has it been since he has been fishing? Does he even have a license anymore? Our state of Pennsylvania, for instance, not only offers annual senior resident license for a reduced cost, but also offers a lifetime senior resident license that never needs renewed (age 65 – up). You can check your state Fish and Boat Commission website for more information.
But don’t just stop at the license. Remember then to schedule a trip with your dad to a fishing hole so he can sit back and relax on his day.
So your dad doesn't fish. What is it then that he might consider fun or entertaining (golf, skeet shooting, hunting or boating)? I remember one year my brother took my father on a quail hunting trip in the south. Dad loved it! Whatever you do, make sure he is physically able and that you plan and pay for the day.
And don’t forget his bucket list – is there somewhere he’s been wanting to go. If siblings are willing, you can pool resources and give him the trip of a lifetime. Now, that’s a gift to hoot about!
3. Choose Something He'll Love
Lee Eisenberg, the Daily Beast, shares 6 Secrets of Perfect Gift Giving. Although not all need be applicable, here are some thought-provoking "secrets" to help you make your choice:
- The perfect gift calls on the giver to make “extraordinary sacrifice”
- The giver of a perfect gift wishes “solely to please the recipient.”
- The perfect gift is “a luxury”
- The perfect gift is appropriate to the recipient
- The perfect gift is “surprising”
- The perfect gift is one that the recipient desires
4. Make Memories
Dad’s have lived a long life and experienced much joy and sadness. Memories are something he can always cherish.
Consider organizing and redoing his ratty photo albums. If you're more hi-tech, you can scan and upload pictures on a digital photo frame and place it somewhere he can enjoy them everyday. Shutterfly is also a great place to make photo books of weddings, reunions or even holidays.
Are all his movies still on VHS – have them digitally transferred to a DVD so he can simply pop them into his player or computer. A far cry from the days of rewinding and reloading a film reel, dad can watch his films with ease.
And finally, it's Father's Day, gather the sibs, the grandkids and whoever else and schedule a family photo. You're still family even though the matriarch is gone, so moving forward as mom would have wanted is essential.
5. Give Him the Best Gift of All: Time
Embedded within all these other gifts is the one gift most precious of all to widowed dads—the gift of time.
On Time.com, Gilbert Cruz listed the sixth most commonly broken New Year's resolution as "Spend More Time with Family". It's a hard promise to keep", says Cruz, "no matter how sincere the desire."
A Humana/ NCOA (National Council on the Aging) survey reveals that "...seniors’ health and well-being may actually depend, in part, on how much time they spend with their extended families." The survey said that, "... nearly 90% of seniors surveyed feel revitalized when they spend time with families and 70% say they wish they saw their families more throughout the year."
The AARP Foundation sent a survey to Tax-Aide sites that serve a less engaged population (such as people 65+ living alone with disabilities or those 60+ living in rural areas). The survey found that forty-two percent said that one of the most common reasons they felt isolated was that their family and friends were too busy.
It has been said time is precious, and we cannot recoup time not well spent. The greatest gift you can give your widowed father is to spend time with him. This benefits not only him, but you, as his child, as well. The give and take between a parent and child doesn't end when a child leaves the home - it is lifelong, precious and irreplaceable. Make it a point to spent quality time with your dad not just on fathers day, but all year through.
Cleary, K. (2012, November 26). Improve Your Health: Spend Time with Family & Friends | Thriving in the Middle. Thriving in the MIddle. Retrieved June 9, 2013, from http://www.thrivinginthemiddle.com/improve-health-spend-time-family-friends/
Cruz, G. (2012, January 12). Spend More Time with Family - Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year's Resolutions - TIME. Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - TIME.com. Retrieved June 9, 2013, from http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages
Many Seniors Connect Well-being to Time They Spend with Family. (2011, October 19). Improving the Lives of Older Americans. Retrieved June 9, 2013, from http://www.ncoa.org/press-room/press-release/many-seniors-connect.html
© 2013 Carla J Swick