DEAR ABBY: I am the youngest of three boys. When I was growing up, my brothers didn’t have much to do with me. At times they were cruel, mocked my interests and made fun of my friends. At 19 I moved into the dorms, even though I was attending college locally.
My professional life took me away from my hometown for 25 years. Both brothers pretty much ignored me, except for calls on my birthday that were filled with awkward silence because we didn’t know each other well enough to talk about anything. I lived abroad for long periods, and even though I sent emails and postcards, I never heard anything from them in reply.
Now I live back in my hometown, and I am expected to participate in holiday and family events because “it’s family.” Please give me the words to use to refuse invitations I do not want from a family who made it clear that they had no use for me for so long. — Wary in Wisconsin
DEAR WARY: Give the following standard refusal: “Thank you for wanting to include me, but I already have other plans.” No one can argue with that. I do, however, suggest you choose one holiday a year to spend with your “family” as a way of maintaining minimal contact. That way they can’t accuse you of snubbing them.
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Voices of the deceased
DEAR ABBY: Three widowed friends of mine still have their late husbands’ voices on their answering machines. I think it’s spooky and in really bad taste.
Is there any way to gently suggest to them that they change their greetings to one in their own voices or an anonymous one? I’m a widow, too, and I wouldn’t think of leaving my greeting that way. — Flabbergasted in Florida
DEAR FLAB: Different strokes for different folks. Has it not occurred to you that these ladies not only do not find the sound of their late husbands’ voices the least bit spooky but that they might call their own numbers to hear it? They may also feel safer having a male voice answer their phones. Because you find it upsetting, consider texting or emailing them instead.
Study on caregiving
DEAR READERS: The departments of psychiatry and medicine at Tufts Medical Center want to learn more about the impact that caregiving has on family members and friends of people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Because family members and friends of individuals with mental illness play a large part in providing care — while also balancing jobs and other life responsibilities — the physicians and research scientists at Tufts are asking you to share the impact caregiving has on different aspects of your life, including your ability to work and your health and well-being. This information will be used to improve services to caregivers and the people they support.
If you are interested in participating in this study, please visit TinyURL.com/TuftsCaregiver. Participation in this study is voluntary and involves completing an anonymous survey.
Dear Abby readers are the most generous and caring folks in the world, and I hope some of you are willing to help with this project.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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