Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My 80-year-old mother is in good physical health, which is a blessing. She stays in close touch with my brother and me. But that is sort of the problem.

She lives alone, and I think she's lonely and bored. She calls me at least three times a day, including when I am at work. She doesn't like it when I cannot take her calls. I try to explain to her that it's best for me to talk after work, but she doesn't remember.

I am at my wit's end. I can't talk to my mother every few minutes. How do I tell her this without hurting her feelings? -- No Time to Chat, Washington, D.C.

DEAR NO TIME TO CHAT: It's a blessing that you have your mother. She is probably calling you because she doesn't have anything else to do. Since she is in good health and seemingly bored, why not do some research and figure out activities that might interest her? Helping her get involved in daytime activities would be more constructive than reprimanding her.

There may be a local senior center that offers day programs for senior citizens. Many of these programs include art, computer, dance and even culinary classes. Ask your mother if you can sign her up for one. Then when you do talk, the conversation will be that much more interesting!

DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-boyfriend called me out of the blue. He said he was in town, and he wanted to know if we could get together. We broke up four years ago, and I hadn't heard from him since. Now he's coming back like I want to talk to him.

I feel uneasy about this. I loved him, and he really hurt my feelings. What if he does something that will hurt me again? Should I not return his calls? Should I see him? Or should I just act like I didn't hear from him? -- Cautious, Salt Lake City

DEAR CAUTIOUS: Will you obsess over him if you do not respond? I think that is the real question.

It sounds as if you've jumped back on the emotional roller coaster that you rode at the end of your relationship. Step off and observe the situation. Why are you feeling so distraught? What do you want from this man, if anything? What are you hoping for?

If you think you can be grounded when you speak to him, start with a call. Ask what he wants to meet about. Press him for context. If you think you can manage a face-to-face meeting, suggest a public location and go for it. But don't make it a reunion meeting. Your goal should be finding out what's on his mind. If he seems vague, press him for why he has reappeared at this time.

Avoid confronting him about his past behavior, at least at first. Listen. Based upon what he says, you will know what your next steps should be. Don't presume to know the nature of his communication. Let him tell you.