Abby: Pen pal taking friend’s memory loss personally
Dear Abby: I am in my 30s and correspond with a pen pal. She is over 65 and lives several states away. We have never met in person. We have been writing each other for seven years. Recently, she has been having memory problems. She has indicated that she’s done testing and been to doctor’s appointments for the issue.
Her letters are becoming confusing as she’s repeating herself from one letter to the next, telling me things she’s already told me. Also, more concerning is that she often accuses me (meanly and out of her normal kind character) of not responding to her letters and saying I mustn’t want to be her pen pal anymore. Abby, I put lots of thought into the letters I send, and they are many pages long.
I have now taken to photocopying my letters or typing them and saving the file so if she says she’s missing a letter from me, I can simply mail a second copy to her. This clears up the physical issue of repeat sending, but honestly, mentally and emotionally, I’m beginning to get burned out. I feel bad for thinking this way because I’m compassionate and empathetic.
Losing one’s memory has to be scary, and I have enjoyed writing her for so long and wouldn’t want to abandon her. Also, I wonder if her writing to me is a good activity for her, given her ailment. Truthfully, though, I’m starting to feel hurt and abused. Can you advise?
– Needing a Break in Illinois
Dear Needing: It is very important that you remind yourself that what you are experiencing with your friend is not her fault. It is caused by her disease. Do you know if she has family nearby? If so, they should be contacted and informed about what’s going on.
Dementias are often progressive, and at some point, your friend may no longer be able to correspond with you. My thought would be that you continue to write to her, but make your letters shorter and less frequent, and do not personalize what’s going on.
Dear Abby: I have a grandson who is turning 3. My son’s fiancee, “Tina,” watches him frequently while my daughter, “Lila,” works. On several occasions, Tina has done things I don’t agree with, but I have kept my peace. However, today Lila called me, extremely upset.
Apparently, while Tina was watching my grandson, she had another little boy there who is the same age as my grandson. She had taken it upon herself to potty train the boys, although nobody asked her to, and offered them ice cream if they used the potty. The other boy used it and was given ice cream. My grandson refused and didn’t get any. He cried because he had to watch the other child enjoy the treat.
I think it was cruel. Children learn at their own pace. My son is siding with his fiancee, Tina, and everyone is upset. Any advice?
– Extremely Upset Grandma
Dear Upset Grandma: If she hasn’t said it already, your daughter should politely make it clear to Tina that she prefers to toilet train her child without outside help. If Tina gives her an argument, Lila should make other arrangements for child care. And you should stand back and let them settle it between themselves.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.