What to Give an Eighty Year Old Man

My parents seldom celebrated special events or holidays, and they hadn’t exchanged gifts in years. Dad had long since given up buying anything for Mom, who was as difficult to please as he was easy. But Mom and Dad received copious gifts after moving to Portland to be near us in their so-called golden years because my wife is an ardent gift giver.

retirement humorStill, Dad was difficult to buy gifts for, not that he was difficult to please; he loved everything. A jar of apricot jam, a CD of Patsy Cline’s greatest hits or a vintage aviation jacket; he was as excited as a bear handed a picnic basket.

It became a challenge to find gifts he wanted or could use. Eventually, we ran out of ideas. The year we bought Dad pajamas he was in desperate need of new ones. His current PJs had been reduced to threads and Mom didn’t shop much anymore. It’s a well-known fact that men don’t buy pajamas for themselves, especially eighty year old guys.

So my wife and I went to Macy’s and bought him a new pair. On Christmas morning his face lit up when he opened the package, careful not to rip the paper or damage the bows. “Just what I wanted,” he’d exclaimed, as if receiving a vintage ’68 Mustang GT 390 Fastback.

Weeks passed and I finally got around to asking Dad if he was enjoying his new pajamas.

“I sure am,” he said. “They’re wonderful.”

But one evening I dropped by their apartment unexpectedly (it was only 6:45 and not even dark outside) and caught Dad in his old PJs. “Why aren’t you wearing your new pajamas?” I asked.

He hemmed and hawed for a moment before admitting, “I’m saving the new ones for a special occasion.”

I couldn’t hold back my laughter. Exactly what sort of special pajama-related occasion was my eighty year old father waiting for? Did my shy dad have a secret fantasy? Was he expecting a call from Hugh Hefner inviting him to the Playboy Mansion?

Dad never wore the pajamas we bought for him. Mom says he took them out of his drawer and looked at them occasionally, but he always claimed they were too good for everyday use.

Now, when I think of Dad I imagine him wearing them in heaven. No longer shy, he’s looking sharp in a playboy mansion in the sky.


  1. It’s difficult, getting old and not needing anything. The talcums and creams pile up ion the bathroom counter; the necklaces curl snakelike at the bottom of the dresser drawer. Christmas makes one’s jaw ache from stiff smiles as one tries to open yet another box of chocolates with cherries in them. This year asked my 99 year-old mother what she would like for Christmas. “Tell me the truth, Mom,” i insisted when she hesitated. “If you really want to know,” she answered, the words came slowly and I feared that she might ask for the one thing I couldn’t give her. “What I would like right now is a cigarette.”

    Well, I couldn’t give her a cigarette either, but we both managed a grin and she added, “I don’t need a thing, Joie, except you.”

  2. That was a delightful story and so typical!

  3. More of this writer!

  4. Very good story. My dad was always hard to shop for too.

  5. awww. bless him. just like my mother – she would use virtual rags for towels for herself, then haul out the new ones only for the guests’ use. *sigh*

  6. This is so funny and so touching… and so beautifull told!

  7. Great story!

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. My dad refused to let my mom buy him new black socks (from Walmart, not even Macy’s) because he said the price was outrageous.

  8. What a great story! Enjoyed it very much and it reminded me of my father-in-law who always looked spiffy, even in his robe and pajamas. Nicely written.

  9. What a great article! And SO relatable. Just this week my mother answered my “what do you want for Christmas” with a sing-songy “The only thing I want for Christmas is just to keep the things that I’ve got!”.

  10. I loved this story–it really hit home!!

  11. Aw, that is so sweet. I love that. And I have to admit, even though I’m not 80, that I can see his point! I have some really adorable pj’s that I almost never wear. I mostly just wear a t-shirt and boxers to bed. I can’t even explain it, except that it just seems like there needs to be a reason to wear those pj’s and until I have it, I’m just gonna throw on a t-shirt.

  12. Terrific post. Enjoyable and and touching. He’s a great writer.

  13. What a great article. It’s difficult for folks of our parents’ generation to get past actually using “the good stuff” for everyday use. Your dad sounds like he was a very sweet man.

  14. I can certainly relate. My dad was the same way, and if the truth be told, I’m probably moving in that direction myself. Great story!

  15. I love this piece. What a great writer. I’d like to see more from him.

  16. Wow, i like your father! He sounds like he was a very special guy. Nice story.

  17. what a great story and so true. my dad was the same.

  18. I love that turn of phrase…. as happy as a bear handed a picnic basket!

    I know that feeling, though, of not wanting to use specially nice stuff. And goodness knows what I am saving that Greek nut stuff for which I got years ago and still have because it’s too nice and pricey for me to eat.

  19. i find that age certainly changes what we want and what we need and these do not necessarily go together. As I age, I am the opposite of the author’s father and find I want to start using all the nice stuff before I die.

  20. oh this is a sweet story- sounds like my Grandmother! When she got older she always said give me something I can use up! So a little box of cookies or jam or better yet- a photo of the kids- even tho’ the pics could not be used up- she loved having a new photo or two! Thanks for the story!

  21. This is just priceless. I think our folks generation kept lots of things “for good”. I imagaine your Pop is looking good up in heaven with his styling PJ’s. This was a delightful story, I love it.

  22. Love this story. Sounds like Uncle Lee and yes everyone, he was a very sweet man!

  23. What an adorable story! It left me with a big smile on my face.

  24. Aww, what a cute story! It sounds just like my mother. I buy her jewellery and she always loves it, but she never wears it. She’s always waiting for that special occasion.

  25. What a great tale, I felt as if I could have been standing there watching as you related the story.

  26. I don’t think he’s wearing them in heaven at all. I think he’s looking at them and saying ‘these are too good to wear up here’, ha ha ha. As you get older, you like to hang on to those little treasures a bit more. I love my PJs, holes and everything, I don’t want a new one. You’ll have to fight me to get them off 🙂 Great story mate.

  27. Super, heart-warming story.

    At 55 I do have tendency to put things away as ‘best’ – it drives Mrs Jones to distraction. If I reach my 80s no doubt this trait will strengthen.

  28. Daniel LaFrance

    December 4, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    A delightful story that rings ever so true. My father is 85 and enjoys his regular cloths… they are broken in and comfy so he says. lol

    This author obviously writes from the heart. A nice down-to-earth easy read. I’d like to see more from this writer.

  29. Ha! This struck a chord….only mine was flannel shirts. My grandpa wore his thread bare…..but loved to look at his new ones in the drawer.
    Gosh…I wonder if my husband will be like this?
    Gives me something to ponder. Great story.

  30. Michael Manning

    December 5, 2013 at 4:20 am

    A heartwarming story about your Dad, as we can all relate. Stories like this one are wonderful because they honor our Dads by keeping their memory alive. Well done!

  31. Loved it; ‘playboy mansion in the sky’…nice.

  32. This made me smile – what a great story! My father-in-law and the author’s father must be related. I suspect my husband will be a little like this some day, saving stuff for “special occasions.”

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