Dear Amy: My mom and I are best friends. My parents had a true storybook romance. They met as children and were married for 32 years until my dad was quickly taken from our lives by cancer, when he was only 60 years old — 20 years ago.
My mom has been literally heartbroken since then. She longs for fun and to meet people but can’t get out to do it.
I have tried everything — classes, moving to different towns in hopes of finding a close and fun community, moving her into an elder community, getting a volunteer job, trying a paid job, going to church … you name it, I have tried it.
I know I can’t make her do things, but she continually tells me she would “do anything to meet a nice man and have some friends.”
Her father was very hard on her and was verbally abusive and she has no self-confidence, because of him.
I am eager to learn if you might have any ideas or advice for my mom.
She is a very young 76, and loves to have fun, laugh, and do things with people.
But her life for the last 20 years has been very lonely and quiet.
I know she needs to do things for herself, but she doesn’t use the computer, and I try to at least find possibilities that might open up some social life for her, and to find some friends.
I am hoping that you may offer some new ideas or thoughts.
— Frustrated and Sad Daughter
Dear Frustrated: You are your mother’s best friend. It is possible that if the two of you had allowed one another to differentiate so that you could be her daughter instead of her best (and only) friend, she might have developed some of the skills and tools to relate to people more on her own.
You have made all of these efforts on her behalf and have even written to me for more ideas for things you could do for her.
I hope you see where I’m going with this.
She needs help from someone other than you, and she deserves the empowered feeling of discovery when she makes efforts on her own.
You deserve to move forward with a relationship with her that isn’t defined solely by her needs.
The next time she expresses her dissatisfaction and desires, tell her that you’re out of ideas. Does she have any ideas? Ask: Are there things she (not you) could do differently to change the outcome?
She would obviously benefit from compassionate therapy.
And also — because you’ve got me doing this now — an elder hostel experience might be enriching and empowering for her. Check roadscholar.org for programs.
Dear Amy: I have been estranged from my mother and siblings for several years. Long story short, my brother is clinically a sociopath and my mother has spent her life defending all of his hurtful behavior. For example, I was in the hospital. When my brother heard that I was ill, he responded with “Good, I hope she dies.” My mother was there when he said it and just laughed!
Amy, I have many serious health issues, and recently found out that I have cancer.
I feel like I should try to contact my family to let them know. I know it’s important to share family medical history, and both of my siblings have young children.
To be perfectly clear: I do NOT want a relationship with them.
They have hurt me too many times throughout the years.
Should I try to contact them? What should I tell them?
— New Cancer Fighter in PA
Dear Cancer Fighter: You should ask your medical team for guidance about this, but I don’t believe that you are ethically required to contact your family members. If you do, you might want to set up a separate email account from which to email them. That way, you can read — or not read — any responses that might come in.
Keep your statement short and factual. Say, “I’m fighting this illness, and hope to do well.”
Dear Amy: “Second Guessing my Silence” wondered whether to tell the teenager sitting in front of her in church that the girl had lice nits in her hair.
You should have told her to speak with the priest about it. He could meet with the family privately.
Dear Upset: “Second Guessing” was too shy to tap this girl on the shoulder. I can’t imagine her having the moxie to tell the priest.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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