Dear Etiquetteer: My supervisor is entering a new stage of her life, namely moving from independent living to assisted living. Her husband’s health has progressed to needing additional care. On the occasion of previous moves, I have sent a small (work-appropriate) housewarming gift. With such sadness around the move, is it appropriate to send a gift? If so, what would be appropriate? Previous housewarming gifts have typically been a bottle of each of their favorite adult beverages.
I am quite close to my supervisor and she has recently been exceedingly generous towards me personally since the birth of my daughter. What is my best course of action?
Moves of Necessity are often accompanied by sadness for the Moved, which creates an opportunity for loved ones to support them with Good Cheer. The way you refer to previous gifts of spirits sounds as if their presentation on moving could be considered a tradition, and Tradition is a terrible thing to break.
But perhaps the health of the gentleman in question no longer permits imbibing? As you and your supervisor know each other so well, Etiquetteer sees no difficulty in a discreet inquiry along the lines of “And do you and Ethelred still enjoy your highball before dinner?” The answer to that will guide you.
Otherwise, moves to assisted living often entail reducing the number of one’s possessions. Under these circumstances, useful gifts are most Perfectly Proper: foodstuffs, stationery, laprobes, etc. One item unique to assisted living facilities is decorations for one’s door. A gift of an all-seasonal wreath or something similar could help make the transition more homelike.