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by Abigail Van Buren

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.

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