Not another box of cheese, again...
February 18, 2008 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Dad gift filter: Out of gift ideas for my Pa. He's disabled, lives in South Carolina, and doesn't get out much.

So, I've got a Dad who's really tough to buy for and his birthday is this week. I live in WI and he's down south so it must be something shippable. Background on him: He's 57, retired early for a disability (broke his back). Lives with my mom and a pile of critters (I think 4 cats & 2 dogs plus assorted fish & lizards & whatnots). He likes US war history -- particularly WWI & WWII, he likes odd trivia about Nazi Germany, is interested in oddball Fortean-type phenomena & the occult (ghosts, UFO's, magick, Masonic legends, etc.), he loves old movies like westerns, war movies, & those swashbuckly type old naval-battle & pirate films. He doesn't read much (magazines) and won't go anywhere near a computer. He enjoys putzing in the kitchen and doing basic down-home cooking for himself but is not a foodie or gourmand (so no fancy-pants oddball edibles). Old hobbies he gave up since the disability include antique gun collecting, fishing, hunting, motorcycle riding, metal-detecting, old-bottle digging. I've tried to persuade him to take up an old or new hobby but he says he can't get around physically anymore (he can only walk short distances while using a cane) & he doesn't have money to buy new gadgets or toys. He's not really into music or culture in any way. He's very sendentary and spends most of the time on the couch watching TV or managing the adventures of his animal companions. He says he's bored a lot. He's a bit of a redneck. Not academically or intellectually inclined (though he's not a dummy, just not highly educated). Also, a caveat: he's an alcoholic so liquor gifts are out.

So, over the years I've sent movies, magazines, gift boxes of the foods he likes that he can't find down there, knicknacks that suit his interests, tarot cards & the like, occasional kitchen gadgets, homemade cookies & treats, hand-drawn cards, new pipe & tobacco (only to find out he was trying to quit). But I'm out of ideas, and yeah, boxes of food are always a backup but I'd like to add something else special he might enjoy. Mom has the same trouble finding things he'd like. He wouldn't like books, CDs, puzzles, or anything techy or computer-related. Anybody else have a Dad like this? Any suggestions for gifts that'll make him go "oooh?"
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Bought the Victory at Sea DVDs from my dad a few years back. We'd watched them together on PBS when I was a kid.
posted by yerfatma at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2008

Response by poster: I think I bought him the Victory at Sea set a couple of years ago (I can barely remember which movies I already sent!)... but you're on the right track for sure. Thanks for the idea, I can ask Mom if he already has it. He definitely likes that kind of thing.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2008

You dad sounds a lot like mine; my dad's not disabled, but he still spends most of his time in front of the TV or tending to their two cats. He does the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper, and then sits back and complains about anything and everything (too many commercials, why won't the neighbors shovel their walk, etc) while watching TV. My dad is also impossible to buy for, and I have found in recent years that as crotchety as he seems/is, what he really likes is for someone sit with him while he's watching TV. He'll talk a little back and forth, but he really likes to share the laughs of sitcoms with someone else. During commercials he'll go back to his puzzle and ask for help with certain words. Even if there's not all that much communication, he just seems more content with another human sitting with him in the living room. So even though you're a long distance away, I'm betting a visit would be the best present you could give your dad. Even if it's not right on his birthday but on a weekend where you can better arrange it, go down and spend one afternoon or evening with him. Watch one of those WWII DVDs with him, ask him about his pets (he'd probably love to tell you the quirky things the cats do), and maybe have lunch or dinner on TV trays with him.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2008

Western Legend's 50 movie pack, available from Amazon for just $26.99. Includes the oldies and the goodies, perfect for someone who is home in front of his tv a lot and really likes Westerns.
posted by arnicae at 9:47 AM on February 18, 2008

The War, Ken Burns' recently released (last year or two) movie about world war two. Really brilliant movie- if he liked the Civil War epic by Burns, he will really like this. Well worth watching and great for WW2 history buffs.
posted by arnicae at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2008

My default present for difficult-to-please people is really beautiful geodes. You can get them at most rock shops (shippable, but probably expensive because of the weight.) These folks have some cool stuff, or try your local natural history museum.
posted by nax at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2008

Don't know what your price range is, but my 82yo father-in-law just bought himself a Wii. It seems that they are becoming very popular with the senior set because the controls and interface are very non-threatening for non-techy type people.
posted by qldaddy at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2008

It breaks your book restriction, but My Tank is Fight! is pretty light fare and a lot of fun. The Victory at Sea similar items page at Amazon has some other DVD sets that might be a match.
posted by yerfatma at 10:48 AM on February 18, 2008

what's your budget? a plasma TV? a Blu-Ray player? a DVD box set? a 14-dollar book?
posted by matteo at 11:21 AM on February 18, 2008

I work at a video game developer and we are absolutely fascinated by the articles that show seniors are flocking to the Wii in droves...the Wii Sports that comes with the unit has great games that seniors are just having a blast with.

Next time you visit, maybe you can bring a copy of Civilization for the computer...if he's interested in History and Military History, what could be more fun than running your own war...I'm sure some other MeFite can give you the titles of some good WWII sims rather than just Civ.

Penn and Teller did a really neat trip to several countries tracing the history of magic which would be up his alley
posted by legotech at 11:21 AM on February 18, 2008

(If your budget is tight I think the Erroll Flynn box set at 42 bucks is a very good deal)
posted by matteo at 11:22 AM on February 18, 2008

If your mom is willing to manage his queue (due to his computer aversion), get him a Netflix account.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:25 AM on February 18, 2008

A Leatherman Wave was the first thing that popped into my head. They are just all kinds of useful for pretty much anything someone might be doing day to day, and the ability to have a number of tools on hand might be nice for someone who doesn't want to have to move around a lot to get them.

Barring that, there are some great WW2 military items (bayonets, medals, helmets, canteens, etc) that can had at places like gun shows for fairly cheap. The only problem with this is that, unless you know specifically what he's into from that time frame, it might be luck of the draw with regard to finding the perfect gift.

A WW2 Luger or Walther could be really cool too, but you indicated that he doesn't collect much anymore.
posted by quin at 2:25 PM on February 18, 2008

This IS a book, but it's very readable - Loren Coleman's Mysterious America, about American Fortean stuff.

Also, if he enjoys taking care of his pets, you could get him a catalog and a gift card from, which is a very excellent internet and mail order pet supplies company. They even ship live fish! (I haven't tried that part, but highly recommend them for supplies.)
posted by bettafish at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2008

Seconding the Netflix account. Or maybe a George Foreman grill?
posted by invisible ink at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2008

When I get truly stuck for my mum or dad, I get them a night away at a B&B somewhere. This may be difficult with his disability, but it's one of the few things that I know my parents would like that they don't get for themselves. Or maybe send them out to dinner somewhere? Movies tickets?
posted by kjs4 at 5:02 PM on February 18, 2008

How about some toys he and the animals can play with? With some treats for the lizards.
posted by KAS at 8:32 AM on February 19, 2008

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