DEAR HARRIETTE: My family is planning a trip to Georgia, and they are asking all of the family members to travel down together on a charter bus. I don't know if I can handle the trip, because I prefer to fly everywhere I go. Besides, I can meet up with my family in Georgia. The family trip is scheduled for the end of July, and they need my answer soon. -- Ride or Fly, Staten Island, N.Y.
DEAR RIDE OR FLY: I understand your apprehension about riding on the bus, since that is not your usual practice. But this is a unique situation. Riding on the bus will give you the opportunity to spend quality time with your family over a lengthy period. You may discover that spending that time with them is delightful.
Of course, the prolonged captive visit also could be torturous for a variety of reasons -- everything from family bickering to motion sickness.
You clearly have choices. Decide what you want to do and let your family know. If you decide to meet the group in Georgia, simply tell them. Make it clear that you are excited to meet up with them and spend some quality time together. If anyone asks why you aren't joining them on the bus, do not tell them that you choose only to fly (which sounds pretentious). Simply say that although you couldn't make it on the bus, you look forward to seeing them all soon.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm an elderly mother of four grown children who live all across the country. My children are married with their own families to be responsible for. I know they have their lives to live. All I want them to do is to pick up the phone from time to time to call their mother. I miss my children, and I just want to hear their voices. -- Please Call, Chicago
DEAR PLEASE CALL: I completely understand your sadness over the lack of regular connection with your children. Too often, family members get caught up in their daily activities and, regrettably, neglect their elders. Usually it is an unconscious action on their part. They literally don't realize how quickly time passes.
Complaining about their lack of contact will only make you seem like a grouch. Instead, start calling your children regularly. Try to select a time of the week to call when someone will be free to chat for a few minutes. Tell them how much you appreciate hearing their voices and learning about their lives. Make it easy for them to want to talk to you, and chances are they will pick up on your cues and reach out to you more often.
To other families in this position, I can only tell you that you don't want to live with the regret of not taking time to have loving interaction with your elders. Life is fleeting. Don't let your elders pass without being involved in their lives.