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November 28, 2012

Grampsí Special Christmas Gifts

Tom McLaughlin

It has been a few years since Mom and Dad passed away but I remember the torture I went through to try and figure out what to get them for Christmas. Even now, the thought makes me shudder.


Earlier, I wrote a column for on my experiences with the elderly, dying and those infirm. As you romp through the Christmas season please don't forget them and here are some ideas. If you are lucky, you still have your mom and dad.


During this holiday season, throngs of shoppers will line up for those “deals” in a panic frenzy. Credit and debit cards and anything else that still has value will be maxed out because of the economy. Often left in the riot are your parents.


When I was a reporter for a small Eastern Shore newspaper, I often covered hospitals and nursing homes. I interviewed scores of doctors for articles pertaining to the retired and elderly because such a community populates Ocean Pines near Ocean City. From these many interviews plus my own observations, they could use the following gifts.


Dehydration is a major problem. As we get older, the skin does not produce the oils needed to keep the skin moist. Coupled with the penchant to keep the house close to Sahara desert temperature, plus the winter low humidity results in itchy, flaky skin.


Purchase skin creams. For ladies, a nice scented gallon bottle will be a welcome addition. For men, a neutral scent; or if you can find it, one that smells of motor oil or deer urine will work. If not available, get a jug as close to neutral as you can.


To keep the dry air moist, purchase a pretty tea kettle. This will be a good source of humidity for the dry air. Then purchase the variety packs of tea to drink using the new kettle. Ask them to try each one and discover their favorite. Then purchase that flavor. Avoid coffee because the effects are magnified as we get older.


To keep the kidneys and bladder functioning, those kid’s lunchtime juices are great. They are just enough to quench a thirst yet not enough to go stale in the fridge like a gallon jug. Buy a case of twenty-four. If they don’t like them, you can take them back – or drink them instead of those so-called martinis you usually guzzle.


Purchase gift certificates to restaurants. Not the fancy types but the good old-fashioned diner. They will usually get enough food to take home for lunch or dinner the next day. They will also likely meet their friends and it can become a social occasion. You can take them out to an expensive restaurant when you make your annual visit to assuage your guilt.


Movie tickets are a great idea. This will also, hopefully, get them out of the house. You may want to make arrangements with the local cab company to drive them to and from the theater. Then call and suggest which movies to see. Besides, it will help you get reacquainted and catch up on the news. Don’t mention you just finished your third rehab.


Call them on the telephone. They live such a dull, boring existence that they will try anything to keep you on the phone. When they ask you what you had for dinner, they are not being nosey but just want to hear your voice. When they ask if your dead-beat husband has found a job, it’s because they need to hear about a life outside their home and not write you out of the will.


Coach the grandchildren. Tell them to tell grandparents what their day was like from first period to last. For younger ones, how their day went. They will probably only remember lunch and recess, but that’s okay. They need not mention the number of times they had to go to juvenile court or that the charges were dropped.


To quote a bumper sticker: “Take care of your parents. Your children are watching.”


[Editor’s Note: this column was originally published on November 25, 2009]


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