Gift Ideas for a Fun, Funny Grandpa

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Age: 82

Place: Chicago

Relationship: grandfather

From the gift-giver:

Youngest of 18 children; his father died when he was 9 years old so my grandfather dropped out of school and began working to support his family. He worked in sugar cane fields and as a police officer, and after bringing his wife and children to the United States, he worked in multiple factories, nearly severing a thumb in a machine accident once. He didn't retire until his 70s. Many of his brothers liked to sing, as does he, but he insists he's no good at singing (which isn't true). He enjoys telling stories about his siblings, he loves watching boxing matches, he doesn't smoke or drink, yet bizarrely, people outside the family would always give him bottles of wine for Christmas for years, so he has a storage of unopened booze in the basement. He has a poodle/terrier mix he rescued named Spike (definitely NOT named by me after a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character).

He cooks and is very, very good at it even though he usually can't eat most of the best things he makes due to recent health issues, and therefore has to have the toned down no-salt option for everything. He does not speak English despite having lived in the U.S. for nearly 50 years and owning a full set of Ingles Sin Barreras tapes for nearly that same amount of time. When I was growing up, my parents didn't speak Spanish at home so I was never able to understand him or communicate with him, which caused some distance between us. I had to learn Spanish in high-school classes; because of this, I didn't learn until I was a teenager how funny my grandpa is and that he really enjoys puns and jokes.

Any gift they’ve loved?

I believe he liked a domino set I purchased for him a couple years ago, although admittedly I've never seen him play it.

We recommend: Guillermo Álvarez Guedes “best of the best” CD collection ($59.94)

Grandpa sounds like a hoot, so an audio comedy extravaganza could tap right into that. He might already know Guedes’s material well, in which case the CDs will be a nostalgic treat. Even if he does, listening to them with you would be a whole new experience. The experiential presents are often the best, especially with older friends and relatives. You can do this one with him from the comfort of the couch, in the kitchen mid-meal prep, or while on a drive around his favorite Chicago haunts. Bonus: Listening with Gramps gives you a chance to work on your Spanish swear vocabulary.

Other ideas:

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