Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My mother and I agreed on a day and time to chat each week. I work during the week, and mom has been retired for many years and is living alone. She places the highest priority on her home, playing bridge and her selected TV viewing. We decided on a specific time Saturday morning to talk. Unfortunately, mom answers her phone maybe 30 percent of the time when I call. Later Saturday or Sunday, mom will leave the "politically correct" response, such as "I miss you and am looking forward to your call later." She sounds genuinely hurt and concerned to have missed my call. I worry about mom because I live many miles away with my husband and son. What I find most upsetting, however, is the litany of reasons why mom wasn't able to come to the phone, such as: "There was a worker at my home, and you know you can't reschedule that" or, best yet, "I needed to trim my roses early this morning." Our 30- to 45-minute conversations (when they do occur) are friendly and valuable, but I'm now setting limits and refusing to call her back until the next week. I feel guilty, but I wonder if I'll miss mom when she is gone. I've always enjoyed the fantasy that my mother loves me more than her actions prove.
-- Tormented in Tucson
DEAR TORMENTED: There could be a practical reason why she isn't picking up the phone, such as she isn't hearing the ringer every time it rings. She might also be having some memory or other cognitive issue that interferes with her ability to attend to this scheduled call.
Also, and just as likely, maybe your mother doesn't really have much to talk to you about, and so she would rather play phone tag than converse. Or she has something fairly monumental to tell you but is avoiding it.
This is annoying, for sure, and you should ask her if another time would be better than the time you agreed on. You should also stop taking this as an indictment of your relationship. You have placed such a high value on this weekly call that it creates a pressurized situation for both of you.
I hope you will visit with your mother in person soon. Spending time together could revive your relationship.
DEAR AMY: Responding to "B," the 20-year-old girl who was with a 43-year-old guy, I wonder, do you ever think a relationship with a big age gap could work out? You're so prejudiced against this, I had to ask.
DEAR FURIOUS: I don't think the age gap is healthy when the younger party is immature and easily dominated, as I thought "B" was.