My mother had no "wish list". Not that anyone knew about. For birthdays and Christmas, she insisted that we spend little on her, and give her only useful items. She worked hard at being sensible and practical, at "pulling her own weight".
When she was 80, and in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease, her self-control snapped; she asked me to bring her a birthday present, something she wanted "just because": a bird book where she could look up the birds that came to her yard or walked on the beach. I bought her The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Western Region). And while I was at it, a bird feeder for her window and the feed to go in it.
She didn't use the book long; a couple of years later she could no longer read the words or find the photos she wanted. But Dad still drove her to the creek to feed the ducks and she laughed with delight like a little girl.
Years have gone by. Both Mom and Dad are no more. And now I sit, evenings after supper, hearing the robins "Cheering up" the cedars and the flicker in the shrubbery, watching the chickadees come down for their evening bath and sitting, fluffed out to dry, in the rhododendron. And I laugh with delight.
Cleaning out old photos last week, I came upon this one: Mom, 1959, somewhere along the highway in Mexico. Smiling at a friendly parakeet.