DR. WALLACE: My parents divorced about a year and a half ago and I now live with my mother.
I feel bad since I see that she doesn’t seem too interested in pursuing a social life lately and doesn’t seem to have a lot of hobbies that take up her time. So she works a lot, watches a few movies or the news when she gets home and that seems to be about it. My mom doesn’t exercise, so since she’s tired from work, she goes out pretty much at night when we’re home. I feel bad that she apparently can’t interact with anyone outside of our home except the people she works with in her full-time job.
I remember when I was younger she told me she was a pretty decent musician in high school and college and played keyboards and did some backing vocals for a little band she played in locally for a few years at the time. She said it was a lot of fun being a musician even though it only lasted a short time in her grassroots life. I once asked her a lot of specific questions about it and got her to admit that she was quite talented on the keyboards and was a “very decent” backing vocalist.
As her birthday is approaching at the end of March, I tried to think of a good and useful gift to give her. It seems she has all the clothes she needs, and a gift certificate to a local restaurant seems bland and redundant to her as she often has lunch with her colleagues on Friday afternoons at various restaurants near our local mall. .
So lately I’ve been thinking about thinking outside the box and wondering if it would be appropriate for me to buy him a nice acoustic guitar. I don’t think she’s ever played the guitar, but I already know she’s musical and has a beautiful singing voice. I’m afraid this kind of gift will upset her, and by that I mean I would expect her to learn a new instrument without ever asking her first. But on the other hand, I know for sure that she would be quite surprised by this type of gift.
I hope she can pick up the guitar and slowly learn to play a few songs. I might even have him sing a few for me at home in the evenings or on weekends.
Am I being unrealistic here? Maybe I’m overreacting to his current sedentary and repetitive lifestyle and therefore trying to pull him out of it? And a gift should be designed for the one who receives it, like my mother, not for the girl who gives the gift, right?
I love my mom very much and want to be respectful when it comes to choosing a nice birthday present for her, but I also want to see if she would like to try something new. What do you think? — Nervous donor, via email
NERVOUS GIFT GIVER: Personally, I really like your idea! To protect your purchase, speak to a local music store manager ahead of time and explain your situation. The reason for this is to be sure you can return the guitar for full credit if the gift idea doesn’t work out and you need to return it in perfect unused condition.
Hopefully, though, your mom would enjoy the new challenge a guitar would present her with, especially since she’s already musically inclined.
Playing a musical instrument is often relaxing for seniors and can even improve or maintain memory and hand-eye coordination.
Since I don’t know if your mom will be able to be a “self-taught” guitar player (if she accepts and takes up the challenge), you might also want to find out about lessons she can take online or even in person. . at the local music store. There are also other people who teach various instruments in almost every city, so a little research in this regard can also be beneficial.
And if your mom is interested, maybe she could do some teaching herself. She could teach keyboards in exchange for guitar lessons by raising funds for her keyboard expertise and spending those funds on guitar lessons. Even better, if she goes down this path, it will also take her out of society a bit.
If she recommits to playing music, she’ll have the opportunity to flow with all kinds of people of all ages — and she just might develop a new social friendship or two along the way.