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Dear Dad, Haul These Gifts Back Home

I don’t know if this will be in time for Christmas, but here goes.

I love hosting our extended family Christmas, and this year it’s on the 30th December. It’ll be a large family gathering, all the generations getting together, hopefully without much fuss!

My elderly Father loves to party, but due to ill health, my Stepmother can’t come with him. Father doesn’t like to leave her alone for too long, so he’s just going to come for the day. He can no longer drive, and we’ve offered to pick him up, but he’s determined to take the local train. I think he’s quite looking forward to it, he doesn’t get out much and it’s a bit of an adventure. I know he’s dead stubborn, and values what independence he has.

My brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles have all agreed to send Father and his wife their gifts beforehand. That way they can open them together on the 25th, with one of my uncles and aunts who’ll be going over on Christmas day. We’ve agreed that on the 30th, each couple will give him a small, lightweight present, just a little token, something to open when everyone’s exchanging gifts. This way he doesn’t get left out, but won’t be overburdened. We did this last year, and it worked well.

Here’s the problem – we posted off our gifts last week, from me, DH and our little ones (who loved choosing presents for ‘Gramps and Granny Jess’). But when I spoke to my brother, he said they’ve decided not to do that this year. For whatever reason, he and his wife want Father to open all their gifts when the whole family’s around. They’re also going to give him our Stepmother’s gifts, for him to carry home.

I can’t see Father managing to carry all those gifts back on the train! He’s in his late 70’s and the doctor’s told him he needs to use stick, even though refuses to. He’s not as strong as he was, not even as strong as last year. I know he won’t say anything of course, he’ll give it a go, but I’m worried he’ll hurt himself trying.

I know my brother’s a grown man and can make his own decisions, and yes, so is my Father, and they’re both stubborn as each other! But I’m the hostess, and I want to make things as easy and comfortable as possible for Father, as my guest. Do I butt out, or ask my brother one more time to come round to our way of thinking? 1216-16

I’m firmly of the belief that adults should often be allowed to be adults.   In other words,  do nothing. Your father is an adult who has the capacity to know that his son and daughter-in-law just made his trip home harder and to make plans for someone to mail his gifts to him at a later date.   And there is no way you can change your brother.

I suggest the following.  After the gift exchanges are over, you can offer to pack up Dad’s gifts and ship them for him.  How nice!   What a good daughter you are!

I also suggest buying one of the nifty folding grocery carts like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Olympia-Tools-85-404-Pack-N-Roll-Rolling/dp/B003ES5TM4/,  so that Dad has an easy way to take those gifts home with him should he decline your offer to mail them.    The cool thing is that once home, it can do double duty as a rolling laundry basket.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Nenetl December 27, 2016, 7:25 am

    Is there not a possibility that the train service themselves can help in the worst case scenario of your dear Father lugging the luggage back home? When I have needed to travel on my own I can pre-book an attendant to carry my luggage down the station and onto the train for me, and someone at the destination to help me off again. I don’t know if there will be much walking before or after the station, but it’s best to have all the contingency plans!

  • mark December 27, 2016, 8:49 am

    You mention he is taking the local train, so I assume he’s close. Would it be possible for someone to visit him in a couple days and drop everything off? Then can fully participate.

    • Kathryn December 27, 2016, 6:38 pm

      This is my thought too! Why not organise to go to Stepmum a couple of days after to wish her a Merry Christmas and drop the gifts off then. Better yet, your brother can do the visit and gift delivery!

      This doesn’t sound complicated.

  • LadyV December 27, 2016, 9:51 am

    Ms. Jeanne’s suggestion about the grocery cart is a fairly good one, BUT – for someone in his late 70s, who doesn’t walk well to begin with, even using a cart to carry the gifts could present some difficulties. I’m in my early 60s and if I have a lot of parcels in the cart, it’s something of a challenge – so I can well imagine how hard it would be for a truly elderly person. However this is settled, I hope Brother sees how much inconvenience he’s caused and will change his tune next year!

  • Ryuugan80 December 27, 2016, 10:19 am

    I actually have to disagree with the Admin’s advice. As long as you’re polite about it (and willing to let it go if it looks like they’re just going to dig their heels in), you should be allowed to be frank with your siblings about what’s essentially a logistical issue.

    Like saying, “It’s nice that you want Dad to open all the gifts with us, but how is he getting them back? Are you planning to buy another suitcase for him to put them all in? Are you sure you want to make him carry all that stuff like that? Or will you be packing them up to mail after the fact?” or even, “What about Stepmom? She’s not going to get a chance to open gifts with Anyone this year if you do that…”

    • SianMcClay December 27, 2016, 3:33 pm

      Nice! I had forgotten about the I’ll step-mother. How thoughtful to have the gifts sent to the house so she and hubby can have a wonderful day of opening gifts!

  • Eliza December 27, 2016, 10:49 am

    If the gifts are cumbersome to carry, Brother should mail the gifts for Father. Brother is choosing to bring the gifts instead of mailing ahead of time, so he should be responsible for mailing them after the gathering.

  • Eliza December 27, 2016, 10:54 am

    If mailing is not an option Father wants to consider, then Brother should buy the folding grocery cart for Father. This situation is Brother’s creation, so he is responsible for managing it.

    • NostalgicGal December 27, 2016, 6:43 pm


  • Mustard December 27, 2016, 1:52 pm

    I wouldn’t do anything; just wait and see. You may be borrowing trouble – the gifts may be easily portable.

  • Ashley December 27, 2016, 2:14 pm

    Honestly, I’d just be frank with the brother.

    I’d tell him “You know dad is going by train. How do you expect him to carry all of this home and not get in anyone’s way on the train?”

    I honestly feel that admin’s suggestion will just reinforce to brother that what he is doing is okay and he’ll be more motivated to do it again, no matter how much trouble it causes anyone.

    Also, I get that those rolling carts are handy but in crowded places they cause far more trouble than they are worth. They are the perfect height for someone to trip over. The convention I go to each summer actually had to ban them in certain parts of the convention hall because they kept causing problems.

  • Willynilly December 27, 2016, 2:31 pm

    I can’t help but wonder if its a trick: Load dad down with gifts, and its cold, and the end of the day… “we [meaning brother, this being his plan] should just drive you home dad, we’re headed that direction anyway…”

  • Pat December 27, 2016, 3:25 pm

    I agree that Brother is responsible – OP should tell Brother that if he wants to bring the gifts then he is responsible for assisting Father in getting them home. That may be enough to convince Brother to abandon his plans. Perhaps Brother is planning on bringing small lightweight gifts and it won’t be a problem. On the other hand, if Brother brings large gifts anyway and then does nothing to help Father get them home, OP will just have to bite her tongue and assist Father in getting them home.

  • AS December 27, 2016, 3:54 pm

    Are you sure that your brother has not hit an economic trough, and don’t want to spend the extra on posting gifts? I found this the hard way this time when I tried to post something this year, and the package costed me more than the gift itself!

    Anyway, the admin’s advise is good; offer to post the gifts to dad.

  • Just4Kicks December 27, 2016, 4:32 pm

    My sister did that one year when she and her family came up for the holidays.
    Her husband, a finalist in “the cheapest person alive” contest, REFUSED to pay extra to bring all the gifts home on the plane and pay extra, so my folks paid to have them sent to their home.

    • Helen January 5, 2017, 8:00 pm

      Do you mean they didn’t bring gifts to your parents’ or they didn’t want to pay to bring gifts they received back to their own home?

  • Semperviren December 28, 2016, 10:33 am

    I agree with Admin. Brother and Dad are adults and capable of working this out. No doubt the OP means well, but she’s taking on too much ownership of this problem.

  • Another Laura December 28, 2016, 12:23 pm

    I agree with OP for the most part but something about the phrase ” ask my brother one more time to come round to our way of thinking” leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Aleko December 28, 2016, 2:01 pm

    The mailing-gifts-ahead arrangement is an established and successful one, but the brother has decided to do something different this year. I think OP should at least entertain the possibility that he has considered Father’s train journey, and has reasons for giving him his and Stepmom’s gifts on the day.

    Maybe, as Mustard says, they are small and portable. Maybe, as Willynilly suggests, he actually plans to drive Father home. (It could well be that he worries about Father’s ability to get himself places by train, and rather than hurt his dignity by saying ‘Dad, I just don’t think you’re up to it’, his cunning plan is to load him with stuff to the extent that he’ll need a lift, and can accept one without shame.)

    Instead of trying to change her brother’s mind, OP should simply ask why he’s changing the arrangement. Who knows, he might actually tell her if asked, and it might make a whole lot of sense.

  • Lex January 3, 2017, 3:44 am

    There is an assumption in the OP’s post (not supported by evidence) that these ‘gifts’ from Brother will be numerous and voluminous. Is it possible that Brother has actually purchased small items, or ‘Experiences’ (such as a local wine-tasting experience, or lunch aboard a steam train or something) and he wants to surprise Grandfather with it? The OP makes no mention whether they are aware of what Brother is purchasing and simply assumes the gifts will be onerous to transport. This may not be the case, so until the OP actually KNOWS what Brother has bought, they should reserve judgement. They can condemn Brother after the fact if he has selfishly overloaded Gramps, but I think it is unreasonable to make assumptions (and we have no evidence in the story of the type or size of the gifts upon which to base a judgement) until you have all the facts.

  • Margo January 3, 2017, 8:48 am

    Maybe brother has planned small, lightweight gifts? Or perhaps he is planning to use them as an excuse to drive dad home.

    I knowthe meeting has happend now – perhaps thje Op will come back with an update. But if it were me, I think I would raise it once with my brother “I’m worried about whether Dad will be able to manage any extra luggage on the train – are the gifts you’re planning likely to mean he’ll need an extra bag? is there a specific reason you’d prefer not to post them?” but then shut up bout it. And plan a second option once you knwo what thegifts are – this might be offering to post them back to dad (at his expense, if he likes / can afford it), offering to drive him and the gifts home, contacting the railway to see if they can help and suggesting to him that you pre-book a taxi to get him home from the station, or offering to keep hold of them (or something else from his luggage to free up space) until next time you go to visit him.
    You can also have a fac-to-face vconversation with your brother after you see what his gifts are and whether they are likely to cause a problem for your dad.

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