Daughter doesn’t share mom’s devotion to family heirlooms

DEAR ABBY: My mother, who is in her late 60s, is obsessed with family history and preserving attachments to relatives. In addition to being the family genealogist, she collects objects that belonged to relatives or people who “might” have been relatives, those who share our last name or lived in the same small town as our ancestors.

Her house is stuffed to the gills with furniture, books, legal documents, photos and the like. Each object has a story that goes with it. Every time I visit, she spends literally hours talking about the various histories of her things and tries to get me to recite what I was supposed to have learned during my previous visits.

The thing is, I really don’t care about any of it. Some of the antiques are nice, and photos of my grandparents are fun to look at, but the rest of it, I have no interest in.

As she’s getting older, my mother is becoming increasingly agitated about what will happen to her collection when she dies. For a while she was trying to give me some of the things. When she found out I gave away a vase she had given me, she just about flipped. Now she is trying to get me to agree to preserve her whole house the way it is and pass it down to my future children intact. Of course, I can’t promise that.

Should I pretend to agree with her plan so her anxiety level goes down? This disagreement has now overshadowed our relationship. I’ve tried to get her to see someone about her collecting habit and her anxiety, but she flat-out refused. — NOT INTERESTED IN UTAH

DEAR NOT INTERESTED: You say your mother is the family genealogist, which implies there are more family members than just you. Young people today are far less interested in family heirlooms than in previous generations, and it wouldn’t be surprising if your future children are no different. Suggest to your mother that she discuss with other relatives the option of giving them her collection to share with their children. But do not make any promises that you do not intend to keep.

DEAR ABBY: I’m a 22-year-old female college graduate who plans to further my education. I have never had a boyfriend or been kissed, although I’ve had casual crushes. I’m not interested in having a relationship in the near future, and I’m not certain I ever want to be in one. I have no idea how I would start one if I did.

Sometimes I wonder if I were more physically attractive if it would be easier. I feel lonely, but at the same time, I’m happy being alone. Sometimes I’m not even sure about my sexual orientation. Is it normal not to know what one wants at my age? — DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT

DEAR DON’T KNOW: Many people older than you have trouble figuring out what they want. You appear to be what is called a late bloomer. Because you are not interested in having a relationship, you should concentrate on your education for now. After you are enrolled, pay a visit to the student health center and inquire about counseling services. If you do, it will not only provide you with some insight but also give you a chance to get to know yourself better.


DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old woman, married to the love of my life for seven years. Three years ago, my husband’s cousin and her mother told him they didn’t like me and didn’t want me around. I only found out about it two years ago.

I feel humiliated, and it’s uncomfortable for me to be around any of them now. I don’t get invited most of the time, and that’s OK with my husband! I want him to address and resolve it, but he hasn’t and won’t. In addition, we have had some major marital issues.

I want him to stand up for me, for us and for our marriage. I haven’t done anything wrong, but I feel like I’m being punished because he won’t take a stand. He and his family have swept the whole thing under the rug for so long that neither of us knows what to do next. Please kindly advise. — CAST ASIDE IN TEXAS

DEAR CAST ASIDE: You say you and your husband have had major marital issues. Did the two of you receive counseling to resolve them, or were they, too, swept under the rug? I think some sessions with a licensed marriage and family counselor might be helpful.

I am not saying your husband should fight your battles for you, but ignoring this problem is not helping your marriage. He has to find the courage to tell these relatives that if they have a problem with you, they should address it with you. If he doesn’t, you should approach them directly.

He should have told his aunt and his cousin the two of you are a team three years ago. If he doesn’t have enough starch in his spine to do that, it will eventually destroy your marriage.

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.