DEAR ABBY: My mother is in her early 70s, and her health is deteriorating after a lifetime of alcohol abuse, smoking and other vices. She has been in and out of hospitals for different ailments over the last four years or so. The last few episodes have been the most worrisome, including breathing problems related to congestive heart failure.
The problem is, my mother chooses not to let most of her children know when she goes to the hospital. She's a very manipulative person from the alcoholism and drug abuse. She has her "favorites" who know everything -- while the rest of us are kept in the dark, even about life-threatening ER visits.
My sister, who is on Mom's favorites list and gladly plays along with this sick little game, doesn't have a problem with it, and we recently had a heated argument over it. I am not on the favorites list, as you might imagine. I keep my wife and children away from my mother as much as possible because of her repeated verbal and emotional abuse.
Abby, I am dreadfully scared that I'm not going to get to say goodbye to my mother when she finally dies. Please tell me what I can do to make sure it's not too late when it does happen. All I'm asking for is a courtesy phone call -- that's all. -- "PAUL" IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR PAUL: Please do not hold your breath waiting for a "courtesy phone call" that the odds are against your receiving. Your sister is sitting pretty just as things are, and your family dynamics are too entrenched and dysfunctional for significant changes at this point.
Rather than worrying about what is inevitably going to happen sooner or later, my advice is to take the bull by the horns and say goodbye to your mother now. If you can't do it in person, then do it in a letter -- which will guarantee you the last word. It is more important for you to get those feelings out than for your mother to "hear" them.