Happy Birthday/Retirement Gift, COVID Edition
January 22, 2021 10:13 AM   Subscribe

My dad's birthday is coming up (in three days!) and he also just officially retired, a goal he's been dreaming about for years. I wanted to do something uniquely special for this occasion, but for a few reasons I'm struggling to come with good ideas!

First off, we live across the country from each other, so in-person stuff is sadly out, even in normal times. In any other year, I probably would have packaged up a hefty sum for my parents to treat themselves to a blowout fancy dinner and thrown in a little extra for my dad to spend on his hobbies (tabletop gaming and miniature painting), which he is SUPER excited to have more time for now.

Because of COVID, the dinner situation isn't possible, and I am very nervous about either of my parents and especially my dad catching the virus due to health reasons, so I wouldn't want to encourage them to go out anyway! I also am not that excited about saying "hey, here is $XXX for a fancy dinner at some unknown point in the future when it's safe!", but maybe that is the way to go? I've been thinking about this all month and coming up empty! There are no real concrete gifts I can think of that feel right or big enough for the occasion in light of the fact that going outside and doing things in public is a no-go for the time being.

He is very into nerd stuff, war gaming and tabletop/mini painting, was in the Air Force for many years. Movies and nerdy things are huge in our relationship ā€“ in 2019 we went to New Zealand together, did the Hobbiton tour and some other LOTR stuff and had a really amazing bonding time on the trip, and something reminiscent about that could also be cool but I can't think what. Any and all ideas would be so much appreciated!
posted by caitcadieux to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Best answer: He has more time now. Schedule a recurring online activity that the two of you can do together.
posted by aniola at 10:18 AM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Is there any, like, super deluxe version of whatever he's using for painting miniatures? Like a really great magnifier or fancy paints/paintbrushes, an improved desk or chair? Something that could make his leisure time more comfortable.
posted by jabes at 10:20 AM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Quick Googling: Perhaps you can send them a meal?
posted by Seboshin at 10:29 AM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Could you order personalized figurines of your family for him?
posted by music for skeletons at 10:30 AM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm very much of the "experiences over material things" school of thought, so this suggestion is based on that.

Could you get his colleagues, former and current, to send him cards about how he was able to make a positive impact on their lives? Not a big ticket item, but could be a very cool and sometimes even emotional experience, especially if you are able to get people from the whole length and breadth of his career to participate.

You could also get friends and family to send "happy retirement!" cards as well!

I did this recently for a loved one's milestone birthday, and they really enjoyed it. Bonus with snail mail is it prolonged the celebrations - they kept getting cards even weeks after (I guess mail is slow during the holidays) so every few days they get a new batch of cards and the happy feeling is back again!
posted by tinydancer at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

i think that sending flowers is always a really special way to mark an occasion. it's a tangible token of love and it feels so great to get them. i think do any of these other great suggestions, yes, certainly, but for the day, you just can't beat a big bunch of something nice. i've been really happy with farmgirl flowers (https://farmgirlflowers.com) but depending on where your dad lives, they might not be able to do it in time. if not, i've also had luck going on google maps and looking at flower shops near where the recipient lives and going to their websites until i've found one that looks nice. you're a good kid for wanting to do something nice for your dad!
posted by monster_a at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There's a very lovely oversized illustrated edition of the Silmarillion which came to mind... scroll down on this Amazon review search for some good photos of its quality.
posted by protorp at 11:57 AM on January 22, 2021

And on the painting / mini front, maybe an Anglepoise desk lamp? To my mind they're very much in coveted-but-couldn't-justify-buying-for-myself territory.
posted by protorp at 12:07 PM on January 22, 2021

Would he be interested in bonsai trees? Maybe they'd be fun coupled with the miniatures he does.

Lee Valley is my go-to "Dad gift" website. So many fun, excellent quality tools and gifts to choose from!
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:01 PM on January 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For Lord of the rings and a little bit nerdy, would a Cameo congratulating him on his retirement by one of the LOTR actors be fun for him? It looks like quite a few of them are on there.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 1:08 PM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was struggling with a similar dilemma, my wise mother suggested that I write my dad a letter. I wrote about the example he had set for me, things I learned from him, and how he had shaped me as an adult. He loved it and cherished it until the day he died. Maybe that would work for your dad too, since you apparently have a good relationship?
posted by DrGail at 3:02 PM on January 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread is a COMPLETE godsend, thank you all so much ā€” these are all excellent answers! The Cameo thing would never have crossed my mind and is PERFECT, so I requested one from Elijah Wood and also ordered that gorgeous Silmarillion edition, which Iā€™m going to write a letter in before I send to him. As someone who is terrible with gifts and was worried about this whole situation, I am genuinely super excited to send him these!
posted by caitcadieux at 9:49 PM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

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