Sisters grow tired of nonstop talker’s restricted repertoire

DEAR ABBY: My sister is driving me and our other sister nuts. There are five years between the three of us. We are all seniors who live in the same city and have always been close.

Abby, the oldest talks nonstop. It was always a family joke, but it’s gotten worse. Now she interrupts people to tell her story (after all, everything is all about her).

A cousin we hadn’t seen in several years came to town, and we all had dinner. Not once did my sister ask, “Why are you in town, how are you doing, your family, etc.?” She just talked and talked about herself and her family.

It’s no longer a joke; she is just plain rude. It’s getting difficult to be around her. How do we stop her outlandish behavior without hurting her feelings? — ALL LISTENED OUT IN IOWA

DEAR ALL LISTENED OUT: Stopping her outlandish behavior may take some risk, but it’s worth it. Point out to her — as kindly as possible — what she has been doing and how it affects people, and tell her it has to stop before people start avoiding or excluding her. The truth may be unpleasant, but she needs to know.

DEAR ABBY: I have a childhood friend who is seriously depressed. She sees a medical professional once a month for drugs, but doesn’t get counseling.

She lives alone and is going through a contentious divorce. She has pretty much alienated her friends and family because she can’t converse without crying and blaming everyone else for her problems.

Do you have any advice on how I might help someone who doesn’t seem able to help herself? I’m at a loss and feel so sad for her. — SYMPATHETIC IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR SYMPATHETIC: This woman is fortunate to have such a caring friend as you. Suggest to her that she inform the doctor who is prescribing her medication that she needs more help than she is currently receiving. And if she isn’t already aware of it, point out to her that she should go online and explore support programs or groups for divorced people.

DEAR ABBY: I’m in my second trimester and grateful to have wonderful family and friends who are giving us their old baby clothes and toys. One of my friends, “Jenna,” is also pregnant. She’s still in her first trimester and hasn’t told anyone yet.

Our mutual friend “Tisa” just had a baby and is giving me all her baby stuff because she doesn’t know Jenna is pregnant. I would like her to share the items with Jenna, but don’t know if I should share her secret. Also, because she’s in the beginning stages of pregnancy, I’m not sure if Jenna is even planning for the baby’s arrival just yet. Should I keep the items and let her know I’ll put some aside for her as the months pass? — THINKING AHEAD

DEAR THINKING AHEAD: Do not betray Jenna’s confidence. The announcement of her pregnancy should come from her. However, DO tell her you will be receiving a lot of baby clothes from Tisa and offer to share them with her as needed if she wishes.

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DEAR ABBY: I just started dating an amazing guy. He is sweet, funny and handsome, but I don’t feel as strongly for him as he does for me. Maybe it’s too early in the relationship for me to be worried about feelings, or maybe as much as I want to have deep feelings for him, I don’t.

Lately, I have been tempted to cheat. That sounds awful, I know, but for some reason, I feel it’s my last chance before things start getting really serious with this guy. I want so badly to have this amazing relationship with him. It really feels like I could grow old with him, and I’d be OK with it. Or maybe I want a lifelong partner so badly that I’m forcing myself to keep seeing this guy. He’s basically everything I’ve ever hoped for, and yet I’m hesitating, unwilling to give up being single and having freedom.

Is it normal to feel this way? Is it normal to have the urge to flee something amazing because I don’t want to lose the ability to have total freedom? Or am I scared of commitment? Life is complicated; I am complicated. — UNSURE IN THE SOUTH

DEAR UNSURE: From where I sit, you do not appear to be ready to settle down. Also, you have “just started” dating this amazing man. Unless he starts pushing you to have an exclusive relationship, you would be wise to give it more time and see how things play out. Whatever it is that is holding you back will become apparent if you proceed slowly.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law manipulates my husband into lying to me and going behind my back. She is hard on him if he doesn’t return her calls promptly, to the point of calling the police and having them come to our home to “make sure his wife hasn’t done anything to him.”

She throws a tantrum if he calls her back when I’m around. She will speak to him only in private and doesn’t want him to tell me about the calls or conversations. (He tells me anyway, although not all the details, which is fine.)

My husband and I feel her demands are destructive to our marriage. Last Thanksgiving was the first time he chose to spend the holiday with me and didn’t see his family. It caused an uproar, and now she’s giving him the cold shoulder and threatening to leave him out of the will. Help! — IN-LAW BLUES IN TEXAS

DEAR BLUES: Your husband should not have had to choose between spending Thanksgiving with his wife or his family. There must be a lot more going on in addition to what you have put in your letter.

Be smart. The two of you should talk about this with a licensed marriage and family therapist who can help your husband find ways to cope with his mother’s emotional blackmail and threats to disinherit him. Her need to control her son is sick and, I agree, destructive to your marriage. Please don’t wait.

DEAR ABBY: I left high school in 1974 before graduating. I acquired my GED and don’t know if it would be appropriate to attend my high school reunion all these years later. Any thoughts? — REUNION IN OHIO

DEAR REUNION: For heaven’s sake go! If you do, you will reunite with friends you haven’t seen in many years, and I am sure they will be as glad to see you as you are to see them.

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DEAR ABBY: For the last 12 years, we have been traveling 7 1/2 hours to see my husband’s grandparents. This happens several times a year. Each time I pray it will be the last visit.

Invariably, when we return home, I am sick for about a week, and it’s getting worse. At 96, Grandma isn’t cleaning the house (Grandpa died four years ago). She lives on her own in the country. Grandma has fallen, can’t cook for herself and still drives. The closest family member lives seven hours away.

Grandma has always been a manipulator, and I’m tired of how she treats her family. She uses the “financial inheritance” for leverage. My family has things planned out in advance about what to do when someone has reached a certain age.

I’m tired of subjecting myself to this, let alone facing Grandma’s wrath. The rest of the family accepts it for what it is. They don’t want to upset her, so they give in and accommodate. Do I have the right to back out? — WANTS TO RUN AWAY

DEAR WANTS: Before backing out, may I recommend that you and your husband discuss this with all of the relatives involved? It seems to me that a group intervention for Granny may be in order.

If she has enough money that she’s successfully holding it over everyone’s heads, she has enough to hire someone to clean her house for her on a weekly or monthly basis. Rather than pray for her demise, ask yourself, “If she’s not cleaning and cooking, how IS she taking care of herself?”

Contact the senior center nearest to where this poor woman lives, or the closest Area Agency on Aging and ask what can be done to help her. If not you, then your husband’s parents, aunts and uncles should do this. Ignoring her condition could be considered elder abuse.

DEAR ABBY: I have never seen this issue discussed anywhere but cannot believe I’m the only person who is dismayed by the tradition of bringing casseroles to the homes of the bereaved.

When my father died, my mother and I hosted a post-memorial get-together at her home. Each of my parents’ many friends and acquaintances brought a casserole. Mom’s refrigerator was always full, so there was no room after the seventh casserole. My mother told me to take the rest to the basement and say it was put in the freezer. My parents never owned a freezer, so after everyone left, we put 17 casseroles down the garbage disposal.

Please make your readers aware that post-funeral food is often inconvenient even if the thought is appreciated. A restaurant gift card accomplishes the same thing and assures the family will end up with something they actually like. — ENOUGH IS TOO MUCH

DEAR ENOUGH: That the love, effort and expense your parents’ friends went to ended up down the drain is a shame. I am printing your letter because your suggestion makes sense and readers may appreciate it. If this happens to other readers, it would not be ungracious to be honest. Explain there is no more room in the fridge or freezer and suggest the food be taken with the mourners when they leave.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.