DEAR ABBY: I am a 35-year-old married woman who, unfortunately, has an overprotective mother. Mom was always clingy. When I was young I was rarely allowed to go anywhere without her, including visits to nearby homes of friends or family. She always had to come along, too.
Now, Mom is insisting I call her every night "so she can hear the sound of my voice" and I can let her know I'm all right. It's driving me insane. We live in the same town. If I go over to visit, she expects me to call her the minute I get home so she knows I'm OK. I finally put my foot down on that one. But still she pouts.
Mom is 70. If I tell her I won't call, she lays a guilt trip on me. The nightly phone conversation is always the same, and it has become a chore. I don't enjoy it, and needless to say, my husband isn't thrilled with it either.
I know of no one my age who calls her mother every night. Talking once a week to catch up on things would be better -- we could have an enjoyable conversation. How can I stop this without feeling horrible? Am I wrong? -- CONFLICTED IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR CONFLICTED: I feel sorry for your mother. She apparently has no other life, no other interests beyond you. You have my sympathy, too, but at her age, it is unrealistic to expect her to change a pattern that was set 35 years ago.
I don't know how involved these nightly conversations with her are, but I recommend you make them very short. "Hi, Mom -- I'm home. Goodbye!" Alternatively, you could agree upon a signal such as one ring of the phone so she'll know you are safe. Even then, she probably won't be satisfied, so be prepared.
DEAR ABBY: I recently spent a few days with my 64-year-old brother, "Austen." His wife divorced him several years ago, and his latest girlfriend recently broke up with him. I suspect I know why. He has turned into a crashing bore.
My brother used to be interested in the people around him, but now it seems like he doesn't care about anyone but himself. He spends hours on end telling me -- and anyone else who will listen -- about the minutiae of his daily life. He talks about his chores, his plans for future chores and the shows he listens to on the radio.
He never once asked about me or the rest of the family, about our interests or activities unless it was a setup so he could deliver another monologue about something.
Austen wants to start dating again. Would I be doing him a favor by saying something about his self-centeredness? Or would I be hurting his feelings? I miss the way my brother used to be. -- SILENT SISTER IN ARIZONA
DEAR SILENT SISTER: When did this personality change in your brother occur? Was it sudden, or has it been coming on for a long time? He may be depressed over the failure of his marriage and his latest romance. Or there may be an underlying physical cause.
As a loving sister, suggest that your brother have a checkup with his doctor if it has been some time since he's had one. If he wants to know why, it would not be out of line to tell him that when you visited him it seemed that his horizons are no longer as broad as they used to be, and you are worried that he may be depressed. But do not tell him you think he has turned into a self-centered bore because it would be both unkind and unhelpful.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)