Dear Abby: I have been estranged from my sister for four years. She lives on the other side of the country, so it hasn’t been difficult to hold a grudge. Either because I’m turning 50 this year, or maybe it’s old-fashioned guilt, I have been feeling that the right thing to do is to make amends.
My question is: How? Should I write a letter, send an email or call her? To be honest, if she made those efforts to me, I would rebuff them.
The two of us are similar, so what would be a good way to bridge the conflict?
– Hardheaded Hawaiian
Dear H.H.: If you call your sister, her knee-jerk reaction might be to hang up. If you email her, it’s too easy to hit “delete.”
Write her a letter. Tell her you love her, miss her and are sorry for the estrangement. If there is something you need to apologize for, do it in the letter. Wait a week, then give her a call.
If she is as similar to you as you think, she may be as glad to hear your voice as you will be to hear hers. And if she’s not, your conscience will be clear because you tried.
Birthday gift ingratitude
Dear Abby: For the last few years, my mother, with whom I spend my birthday every year, has gotten into the habit of buying my birthday presents on the day of. She waits until my birthday day, then buys them in a rush all at one store or suggests we go shopping together. She’s not stingy on price. In fact, she tends to spend more than I think she should.
What bothers me is she makes no effort to prepare a gift in advance and just asks me then and there what I want. She also often buys me a number of things I didn’t ask for.
The last thing I want to do on my birthday is go shopping. It has made me increasingly less excited about my birthday each year.
How do I explain to her without sounding ungrateful that I’d rather receive one thoughtful present than a lot of expensive ones?
– Down on Birthdays in Houston
Dear Down on Birthdays: Excuse me, but you do sound ungrateful. Your mother may not be as emotionally invested in birthday celebrations as you are. Or she may do this because she wants to ensure that you have gifts for your birthday you can actually use.
Rather than criticize her generosity, why not mention in the weeks before your birthday what you might like to have? If you do, it might save her some money and you some frustration.
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 60069.