Dear Annie: For many years, my husband and I hosted all the family holidays. Last year, my husband's aunt invited us to stay with her for Thanksgiving and celebrate with her family. We gratefully accepted. She invited my in-laws, as well, although they opted not to go because my father-in-law wasn't well.
The aunt has extended the same invitation this year. Here's our dilemma: My father-in-law died eight months ago, and my mother-in-law is now alone. She initially said that she would come for Thanksgiving, but now says she is afraid to leave the house empty and won't go.
We'd like to keep our Thanksgiving invitation, but we don't want to leave my mother-in-law by herself on a holiday. What should we do?
-- Torn in Los Angeles
Dear Torn: The first year after being widowed can be lonely and frightening. Your mother-in-law is not ready to join your husband's family for a holiday, and it would be a great kindness not to leave her alone. Tell the aunt how much you appreciate the invitation, but you simply cannot do it this year. (You also could consider inviting the aunt's family to your home instead.) Then encourage Mom to get grief counseling. Sometimes these limitations become self-fulfilling prophecies if not addressed, and you should not be held hostage by her refusal to participate in life.
Dear Annie: How do I tell my best friend that I find it tiresome and boring to talk to her?
Whenever “Jane” calls me (which is several times a day), she goes on for hours about unimportant details. She took 15 minutes to tell me about her excursion to shop for vegetables. She often won't even say hello when I pick up the phone and immediately starts rambling on. She rarely asks how I'm doing.
We talk on the phone a lot because Jane's job involves traveling, and she calls me from her hands-free headset when she's on the road. I once fell asleep during the conversation, and she didn't notice.
I have no problem telling Jane that I can't talk at a given moment, and she's OK with that. I do not want to cut her off. I'd just like these talks to have more interaction. I once told her that I am bothered by the way she converses, and she said she would try to change, but nothing happened. Except for this, Jane is a lovely person, and when she talks about anything else, the conversation can be really interesting. How do I deal with this in a nice way?
-- Annie from Europe
Dear Annie: Jane is basically talking to herself, recounting her day, perhaps trying to stay awake on long driving trips and attempting to make you part of her daily life. But this is both boring and egocentric. Her conversation is all about her. Best friends should be able to tell each other unpleasant facts without ruining the friendship. When Jane starts rambling, use humor mixed with forbearance. Say, “Jane, you are putting me to sleep. Let's talk about this book I think you'll like” — or any other topic of mutual interest.
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