DEAR ABBY: I have a much younger friend in another state, and we like to keep in touch. I prefer email, as I'm elderly, hard of hearing and look after my husband, who is having cognitive problems. I have no household help. My husband and I are both on restricted medical diets that require cooking most meals from scratch and we both have many medical appointments. Therefore, my free time is limited.
My friend prefers talking on the phone. She lives alone and has tons of free time. I have asked for her cellphone number so I can call her during my morning walk, which is the only free time I have, but she says she gives the number only to her grown children and doctors, and prefers to call me.
Each time I email, she says she "longs to hear my voice" and asks if she can call me. I have explained my reasons to her. How do I answer her repetitive pleas politely? I simply don't have time to chat on the phone. I've wavered from this stance with only one other elderly friend, who doesn't do email. It inconveniences me, but in her case, there is no other choice.
-- Communication Woes
DEAR WOES: Does this woman not understand your situation? When she tells you she "longs to hear your voice," keep repeating that taking care of your husband has to be your first priority. Explain, again, that the only time you have to talk with her is during your morning walk, so if she really longs to hear your voice, the only way it's going to happen is if she gives you her cellphone number so you can reach out to her when you are available.
DEAR ABBY: My husband is the oldest of five, with four younger adult sisters. Many people ask if he's the "favorite" since he's the firstborn and the only male, but it couldn't be further from the truth. My mother-in-law favors her daughters to the point of almost ignoring my husband.
When it comes to grandchildren, she's obsessed with her daughters' children and pretty much ignores our children's existence. She visits the others 10 times for every one visit to ours. When my husband has spoken to her about it, she says she just "doesn't see it." Our children have been hurt by her more times than I can count. How can we make her see the pain she continually causes our family?
-- Out of Favor in Florida
DEAR OUT: Because your children have been hurt by Granny's lack of caring "more times than you can count," recognize that the time has come to quit subjecting them to it. Your husband has tried to get through to his mother, but without success. She isn't going to change. Pain is nature's way of telling us to back off. If there are other relatives who are capable of being loving and supportive, guide your children toward them. If you do, you will all be happier.
TO MY READERS: I wish you all a joyous, meaningful and safe Christmas. Merry Christmas, everyone!
-- Love, Abby
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.