DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together since we were 21, and he has always had a distant relationship with his parents. I encouraged him during the first few years of our marriage to call them and visit. I stopped doing that after his mom and I had some choice words.
If he wants a relationship with them, that is up to him. The problem is, when she tries to call and text with typically no response from him, she reaches out to me. We have two daughters, so I don't mind sharing with her how they are doing. What I object to is her occasionally asking me to pass on messages to my husband. I'm a working mom of two, and I don't have time to be anyone else's secretary. The icing on the cake came when she informed me that the family dog they'd had for 15 years passed away and asked me to tell him. I told her what time he could be reached, but instead of taking my suggestion, she asked me again. I ended up telling him.
It wasn't my responsibility to do that, and I'm irritated with myself that I can't be frank about how she and his dad need to contact their son. Any suggestions would be helpful.
-- Finding a Backbone
DEAR READER: It may take courage, but the next time your mother-in-law tries to make you her messenger, tell her that what she's asking makes you uncomfortable and that she needs to convey the information herself -- by either texting her son or emailing. If, after that, she says she can't get through to him, point out that you no longer want to be in the middle. Period. And let your husband know what you've done.
Will this endear you to her? Definitely not. But the individuals who need to heal the relationship between your husband's parents and their son are the three of them, not you.
DEAR ABBY: My parents met when they were 14. They married at 18, raised four boys and had an incredible marriage. When Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, they carried on as best they could with Dad providing her care. Sadly, Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, so they moved in with me, and I quit working to care for them. Dad died three months later. Obviously, Mom was devastated in addition to being confused about why Dad was no longer there.
Mom and I often took walks through my neighborhood, and at one house, in particular, she would comment on the pretty flowers in the yard and how she and Dad enjoyed planting flowers every year. No matter how agitated or upset she was, seeing that neighbor's yard would cheer her up and bring back fond memories for her. Mom died a few years later.
I wrote a note to the person who lived at the property -- whom I never had met -- telling her how much joy her flowers had brought to Mom and thanking her for making my mother's final days brighter. Abby, I am writing now to share that even in the darkest times, a little beauty can make a world of difference.
-- Grateful Son in Arizona
DEAR READER: What you have written is true. Music can have the same effect on patients with Alzheimer's disease. My mother had Alzheimer's for many years, and my brother and I provided her with music from her era -- Pearl Bailey, the Andrews Sisters, etc. -- to help her pass the time. Toward the end, singing a song from her youth to her brought her back to me for a precious moment, and it, too, made a world of difference. Thank you for your letter and for taking me on my own trip down memory lane.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.