DEAR ABBY: My mother moved in with my sister in California around 1993. After 20 years, I asked her what she wanted to do with her storage unit, which was still in Arizona. Long story short, she said: "Clear it out. I don't even know what's in there. Take whatever you want, keep the pictures and give the rest to Goodwill." My sisters have the same recollection. Over the next three or four years, my sisters and I proceeded to do so.
Mom has moved in with me now, at 80 years old, and says she may be moving out into her own place in the future. The items I use in my household are starting to disappear. She says she's reclaiming them. I told her they are things I use and that she gave them to us years ago. Who is correct? Should I keep the items as mine? Or should my mother be able to take them back after specifically giving them up, since they have been integrated into our households? -- CLEARED OUT IN THE WEST
DEAR CLEARED OUT: Your mother may be having some memory glitches, or may regret giving up her independence and the items that symbolize it. Do not be defensive. Tell her that when she has a place of her own "in the future," you will gladly return any items she needs. Do not let this degenerate into an argument. She has been living with your sister -- and now you -- over the last 26 years for a reason. Some seniors move in with their children because they are medically or financially unable to manage on their own.