Dear Abby: My mother is 86 and drives everyone in the family crazy when we have to spend time with her. She says things that make people cringe. She’s racist, homophobic, judgmental and critical of everybody and everything. When we try to point out that what she says hurts people, she starts going into how much she is hurt — daily — by all of us, how “mean” we are to her, and how we are her family and need to be more loving.

We all feel sorry for her and hate how lonely she is. We include her in all major holidays and family celebrations, but she is usually the cause of a major blowup or an overall downer for the gathering. I wish I could help her see that she’s her own worst enemy. I hate the idea of excluding Mom from family gatherings, but it is nearing that point. She has no friends. She goes to radical political meetings and constantly tries to push her health products on us. Do you have any suggestions for how to respond to someone who is so difficult for the whole family? I do love Mom and care about her, but am at my wits’ end.


Reached the End of My Rope


Dear Reached: Your mother isn’t friendless. Her friends are the kindred spirits she sees at the radical political meetings. Because she disrupts family gatherings, you and your siblings need to work out a schedule so each of you sees Mom and takes her out individually. Ignore her comments as much as possible. Will it be fun? Probably not. But more of her time will be filled, and you all will be able to enjoy the celebrations with her absent.

Dear Abby: I’m a receptionist. There’s a growing trend that people don’t bother to listen to their voice mail. Instead they’ll call our firm and say, “Someone from your office called me. I want to speak with them.” They get angry with me when I tell them I have no way of knowing who called them. Our firm is a large one.

I don’t know why people are so lazy and inconsiderate that they don’t listen to their messages. In a couple of instances, important information was left on their voice mail, and the person missed critical deadlines that cost us money. The head of my firm deals with a lot of younger clients, and it seems the younger the person is, the less likely they will listen to any of their voice mails, or their voice mail boxes are full, so it’s impossible to leave a message for them.


Frustrated Receptionist

Dear Frustrated: If someone calls the main number, it may be that it’s the one that showed up on the person’s phone. Tell the caller that he or she has reached the main number, and you need the name of the person before you can make the connection. It’s the truth. It might also be helpful to suggest to your boss that because younger clients often don’t listen to their voice mails or pick up when their phone rings, sending them an email or text might be more efficient.


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