DEAR ABBY: My sister "Ruth" and I spent most holidays dining out together after our families grew up and left home. Ruth died last year and her daughter "Lara" began inviting me for holidays "so I wouldn't be alone." I have tried to decline, but she persists. She insists that I should be with her instead of with friends, although her plans are always tentative and often change at the last minute.
Last Christmas she invited me to a community holiday dinner at 2 p.m. with her friends. At the last minute she called to say we'd be dining at her house in the evening instead, which meant I spent the entire day alone doing nothing. The dinner was grim because they were arguing.
At Easter, Lara called saying plans were "up in the air." At noon on Easter day, she called to say her husband's sister was visiting and they planned to hike in the state park and have a picnic -- something that I physically cannot do. She said they planned to have dinner for me "sometime soon." So, once again, I spent the holiday alone.
Should I call Lara and tell her exactly how I feel, or just write a script for the next time she calls? -- HAD IT IN THE SOUTHWEST
DEAR HAD IT: If you'd prefer to spend the holidays with friends instead of being reminded of sad memories and feeling obligated, you should decline Lara's future invitations. If your niece pressures you, explain that you have already made plans with friends.
Although her heart may be in the right place, from your description of your niece's social skills, they leave much to be desired. Do not allow her to make you feel guilty and change your mind. Your feelings are valid.