DEAR ABBY: I have a friend I'll call Irene who has many wonderful qualities. She's warm, friendly, funny -- and if you were hungry, she'd share her last biscuit with you.
Her one flaw: She treats her children like indentured servants. Irene thinks nothing of calling a nearby son or daughter to venture out at midnight in this dangerous city to bring her a cup of coffee.
She calls her children daily, demanding they chauffeur her here and there, do her laundry or make repairs.
Abby, despite her health problems, Irene is a big, strong woman, and she's married to a perfectly healthy man.
I've been present on several occasions when one or more of Irene's 10 children were present, and I've yet to hear her compliment her sons. She shouts at them, calls them "stupid," and criticizes whatever they have done for her. She pokes her nose into their business and disagrees with every decision they make. I suspect this is displaced anger toward her first husband, who was a womanizer.
Irene's daughters are not treated so badly, but they mimic their mother's behavior toward her sons; they treat their brothers as badly as Irene does.
Irene constantly complains that her children don't share their good fortune with her, but most of them are struggling to survive. They do share with her to some degree, but never as much as she wants them to. She never fails to bring up the "sacrifices" she's made for them. Abby, all mothers make sacrifices for their children, but it's the love and support the children remember -- not the sacrifices.
Several of her children have told me they dread hearing her voice on the telephone, and they make any excuse they can to avoid going to her home because her hand is always out. Irene is growing older, and I can see the handwriting on the wall. When the day comes that she truly needs their help, her children will put her in a boarding house with strangers and visit her for an hour now and then out of duty. She'll sit there with nothing to do but feel sorry for herself, bitter over her "ungrateful" children.
She hasn't asked me for advice, so I haven't offered any, but I hope she sees my letter in your column and recognizes herself before it's too late to become more considerate and appreciative of her children. Sign me, SAD FRIEND IN D.C.
DEAR SAD FRIEND: Those who read my column rarely realize the problem on the page is also theirs, and I guarantee you that someone as self-centered as Irene will be blind to her shortcomings. However, where there's life, there is hope. Clip this letter and send it to her. I'll bet it will be the 11th copy she receives.