DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently met a man through a mutual friend, and I find him kind and thoughtful. We have spoken a few times and even met up as a group with others, and we always have fun.
I learned from our mutual friend that this man has cancer, and he is working hard to fight it -- but he has never mentioned it to me. I would be happy to support him on his health journey, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to talk about his illness unless he mentions it to me. I really like him and would like to be there for him. How can I get that message across without giving away that our mutual friend told me what’s going on? -- Friend in Need
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: Do not betray your friend’s confidence. That will only make for an awkward situation. Instead, be a bit more assertive when you reach out to this man. Invite him to a home-cooked meal at your house. Find out what his favorite foods are, and offer to make a meal in his honor. If this seems too forward, make it a small dinner party.
Ease into closeness with this guy as you make it clear to him that you like him. Listen for cues that will allow you to let him know that you enjoy being his friend and would like to spend more time together.
If ever you notice that he isn’t doing well, that’s when you can ask him what’s wrong and offer to be of help.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother moved into a retirement community a couple of years ago. It has been good for her overall. Now she can interact with people every day, rather than waiting for her family or friends to stop by when it’s convenient for them.
The downside is that her longtime friends are not nearly as attentive. She used to talk to several of them on the phone multiple times a week and have regular visits from them. That seems to have dried up. Everybody is old, and they all seem to be absorbed in their own problems. This makes my mother sad, though. I don’t think that she is picking up the phone regularly to call them, either. How can I support her? -- Losing Friends
DEAR LOSING FRIENDS: One of the more challenging realities of growing old is that you often lose friends along the way. Apart from those who die are those who are busy navigating their own challenges. In your mother’s case, there is another common situation, namely that without consciously making the effort to stay in touch, it is easy to lose closeness with those friends who are left.
You can help your mother by placing calls for her when you are together so that you put her on the phone with those old friends. You can help keep the engagement alive by facilitating calls and occasional visits. Yes, this is work on your part, but it will surely be worth it.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)