DEAR AMY: My three siblings and I are in our 60s. Our 91-year-old mother lives alone several hours away. She has an active social life and keeps her house and herself up well. Whenever we bring up the subject of her moving closer to civilization, she gets extremely angry. She lives in a tiny village about 35 miles from the nearest town where there are doctors, a hospital, grocery stores, etc. Our mother insists that we all must visit more often than we do. I live about six hours away and visit six times a year, staying two nights each time. I bring my vacuum and clean house, plus do yard work. I’m happy to help my mother, even though she is not an easy person to deal with. She has a sharp tongue and does not treat me well. People who know her, like her, but they don’t spend much time with her. My siblings visit once a year. They stay for 90 minutes. I’m the only one who goes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and Mother’s Day, plus a couple extra times to take her to appointments. This year I won’t be able to visit for the holidays and won’t get there until spring. I have asked my siblings to help out, and they absolutely refuse. They are very upset that I even brought it up. They say I am enabling her by letting her stay in her own home. They think I should insist she move to a facility. I have suggested it to her, but she just about goes out of her mind. I will not drag my mother kicking and screaming out of her home. Any suggestions on how I can get everybody into one big happy family?
DEAR DUTIFUL: The only surefire way to get everybody in your clan to be one big happy family would be for you to get a different family.
As it is, your family is a lot like most others’. One consequence of your mother’s personality and treatment of her children is how her children treat her now. You dutifully show up more often; your siblings prefer to pop in and leave as quickly as possible.
You cannot force your mother to live differently, nor should you. If your siblings want your mother to move, then they should make their opinions known to her — not to you. If it is obvious that they will never step up, then stop expecting it.
The outcome down the road for your mother might be for her to perhaps injure herself or become ill, land in a hospital and transition to another facility from there. If she likes being at home and functions well there — then good for her! Tiny villages can work quite well for people at all stages of life, as neighbors check in from time to time and tend to notice quickly if something is awry. “Civilization” is a lot like “family”: not always all it’s cracked up to be.
DEAR AMY: I recently attended a beautiful wedding. An in-law brought it to my attention that my monetary gift was inadequate to cover even my place at the wedding dinner, let alone cocktails, or a gift. I am a widow living on Social Security. The groom was the son of my late-husband’s distant cousin. I had to spend the night at a high-end hotel to attend the wedding. I attended because I was invited, and to see many of my late-husband’s relatives, whom I have not seen since his funeral two years ago. How can I not only deal with my own guilt, but also the fact that someone made me feel guilty for giving an “inadequate” wedding gift?
DEAR UPSET: You did nothing wrong. Your in-law was rude. There is no “rule” that a wedding guest must give a gift large enough to cover the wedding expenses. You should assume your young relatives were happy you accepted their invitation to witness their wedding.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the question from “My Own Name,” regarding her husband’s hostility that she wants to use her “maiden” name: How would men react if they were expected to automatically surrender their names upon marriage? Furthermore, if a man gets married eight times he is still John Smith. If a woman gets married eight times, she is expected to have eight different names. It is time to let go of those old practices that make a woman feel like a man’s possession, rather than his partner.
DEAR PROGRESSIVE: I agree. But this cultural change will take time.