DEAR ABBY: My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, so my siblings and I have been trying to plan something special.
I asked my mother what she would like us to do. Her response was she didn't want to tell me what to do, for us just to decide. When we suggested a Caribbean cruise, she said Dad didn't want to be on the water. So we planned a vacation in Mexico. Mom said she didn't want to get passports. Then I suggested a big party with family and friends. She said she would be hurt if people didn't show up. I asked Dad what he wanted to do; he suggested a trip to New York. Mother shot that idea down, too.
My siblings and I have put months into planning this effort, and Mom is not making it an easy process. We even staged an "intervention" with all of us kids and Mom and Dad. We sat down and brainstormed ideas that might please her, even offering to give them several thousand dollars to spend as they wish. Nothing is good enough for Mom.
I am frustrated. If I do nothing, she'll be upset with me and hold a grudge. If I plan something, it won't be the right thing. At 45 years of age, I just want to do ONE thing right in my mother's eyes. Help me, please. -- NEAR TEARS IN HENDERSON, COLO.
DEAR NEAR TEARS: The name for the behavior your mother is displaying is "passive-aggression." Because you say you would like to do "one" thing right in her eyes, I assume it has been going on since you were quite young. The advice I am offering is not what you expect. Here it is: STOP TRYING TO PLEASE YOUR MOTHER. It is impossible to accomplish.
You and your siblings should throw the party with family and friends. Do not show your mother the guest list; that way she cannot be hurt if someone doesn't show up. And make it a "surprise party." Do not expect to please your mother. She's not pleasable, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you will be.
DEAR ABBY: Because of a sudden, life-threatening illness, I had to leave my job. During the time I worked there, I cultivated (I thought) some great friendships. Now I am heartbroken to realize the friendships I so valued were not valued in return.
One woman broke off our phone conversation with, "I have to take this call. I'll call you right back." It has been nearly six months, and I'm still waiting for that returned call. I know I could have called her back, but I seem to be the only one initiating contact. Perhaps my one or two calls a month became too much for her.
There must be others in similar situations. My question is, should I write this "friendship" off?
-- SADDENED IN TAYLORVILLE, ILL.
DEAR SADDENED: Yes. Some people are so afraid of death that when someone close -- a friend, family member or spouse -- is stricken with a life-threatening illness, instead of stepping forward and offering support, they physically or emotionally run in the opposite direction.
Why cling to this person? When the chips are down, she couldn't face it. And that, in my book, is not true friendship.
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