DEAR ABBY: My 92-year-old mother lives alone, still drives and manages by herself with a feral cat she took in. She's dealing with heart failure, but doing well on her meds. I am 70, an only child, married, retired and live six hours away.
We go to see her four times a year and stay for a week in our RV. We talk on the phone once a week and email a couple times in between phone calls.
Mom says she's staying in her house as long as she is able. She has nice neighbors who will do anything for her, plus a lawn/snow service. We have told her she's welcome to come live with us, but she loves her independence and has the cat to take care of.
She goes to her church group, senior citizens group and gets her nails done every three weeks. She's busier than I am socially. But I feel consumed by guilt that she's so far away and afraid that each visit may be our last.
My husband says he isn't moving, and he has his own activities and health issues. He doesn't want to stay with Mom more than a week because we end up watching QVC with her all afternoon. When we left last week, she said, "My friends told me I hardly ever see you, and I hope you can come more often."
I don't know what to do. Am I doing enough? We pay her taxes and phone/cable/internet and any big bills (car repairs). But I'm not there to drop in the way most of her friends' children do, who never moved away after high school. -- GUILT-RIDDEN IN MARYLAND
DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN: You are doing as much as you can for your mother. Her friends should not judge because their family situations are not the same as yours. You stated that you email her in between phone calls. Ask your mother if she would be open to video chatting (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) in between those phone calls. That way you could see each other's faces, and it might help her feel less distant from you.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have only recently recovered financially from the economy crashing. We lost our car, our home and filed bankruptcy. Thankfully, we now have some savings and no debt other than our new home.
It has been 10 years since we had a real vacation, so we are planning a cruise. My problem is I mentioned it to some friends and family members. Four of them have now asked us to bring back souvenirs for them. I feel it's presumptuous. I don't want to spend my vacation running around buying other people stuff.
Am I being overly sensitive or are they being impolite? And how can I politely refuse? -- FRUSTRATED IN THE USA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: You are not overly sensitive. Tell those folks that your excursion schedule will be tight and you won't have time to do much shopping -- even for yourselves. It's the truth, I'll bet.
P.S. And when you return, be discreet about flashing any souvenirs you pick up for yourselves along the way!