Dear Abby: Sisters react differently in longtime rift with mom

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One daughter can not forgive her mother for throwing her out of the house when she was 25 years-old.

One daughter can not forgive her mother for throwing her out of the house when she was 25 years-old.

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DEAR ABBY: Seventeen years ago, when my sister "Elise" and I were 19 and 25, our mother kicked us both out. I have long since forgiven her, and I have a happy relationship with her. Elise, on the other hand, has never let it go. I don't understand why, because she's the older of us, and 25 was a normal age to leave the nest.

Elise refuses to see our mother unless someone drives out to pick her up, so every holiday and birthday my stepfather picks her up and drives her round trip. Even when my sister is there, she speaks to no one, not even me. Mom and I talk and beg her to join us, while Elise sits off to the side and refuses to join in. I have planned girls' trips for the three of us with the same result.

I long for a relationship with Elise, but not a one-sided one. I feel bad for Mom and for her, because I'm sure Elise is lonely. I feel like a horrible person when I say I have a sister but we are not close. Do you think there's any hope? -- MISSING NORMAL IN MICHIGAN

DEAR MISSING NORMAL: There may be a lot more wrong with your sister than a case of hard feelings. As you stated, seventeen years ago it was normal for 25-year-old women to leave their parents' home and live independently or with a contemporary. If, at age 41, Elise is as isolated and uncommunicative as you describe, she may need the help of a psychotherapist to get back on track. Of course, this would entail her admitting she has a problem and a desire to do something about it. Unless that happens, there's nothing you or your parents can do to "help" her.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 63-year-old man, born "Thomas J. Reilly." I was legally adopted at 14, although I had lived with my adoptive parents since I was 6 months old and was given their surname, "Johnson." My wife of 42 years recently passed. My adoptive parents died several years ago, and my brother, who was also adopted by the Johnsons, has been gone two years.

My mother always wanted me to search for my birth family, but out of respect for her and Dad, I never did. Now, because I have no adoptive relations left in my life, I'm considering changing my name back to Reilly, but I'm ambivalent about it. I want to reengage with my birthright, yet remain respectful to the Johnsons, who lovingly raised me as their own. My heart has two halves, and I don't know which to nurture. -- CONFUSED IN THE EAST

DEAR CONFUSED: The line, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," is a classic in English literature. In a situation like yours, however, it may not hold true. You honored your adoptive parents and your brother every day of their lives. If you feel changing your name would make your heart whole, then follow through with what you need to do.

Wife wants nothing to do with husband's two-timing friend

DEAR ABBY: My husband has a close friend I'll call "Al." (We are like family.) Over the past five months, Al has been seeing two women and sleeping with both of them. Neither one knows about the other. He admits that one of them thinks they are in a committed relationship, however, he refuses to choose between the two. He actually plans the exact same date so he can compare them! I feel bad for them and want to tell him what he's doing is wrong. My husband insists I shouldn't interfere. Al keeps saying he wants us to meet these women, and I just can't imagine keeping my mouth shut. What to do? -- RIGHT OR WRONG IN VIRGINIA

DEAR RIGHT OR WRONG: Al is dishonest and lacks integrity. He may be a close friend, but that doesn't mean you must participate in the games he is playing. A way to avoid that would be to refuse to meet them.

DEAR ABBY: One of the things I always do when I have my parents and my sibling's family over is play the piano. My 80-year-old father LOVES to hear me play. I am an accomplished pianist and I love to play difficult pieces.

During their most recent visit, while I was "trying" to play the Warsaw Concerto for my father, my family was talking over my grand piano, my niece was chasing my grand-niece through the living room and my sister-in-law was filming me, which was chaotic and terribly distracting. I think they were rude and disrespectful. How can I get them to stop this kind of behavior without sounding like a snotty jerk? -- SERIOUS MUSICIAN IN COLORADO

DEAR MUSICIAN: When you wish to perform a concert for your father, entertain your parents APART from your sibling and the kids.

DEAR ABBY: My husband of 30 years died eight months ago. It was a second marriage for both of us, and we each have two adult children. Since the funeral, I have seen his kids and grandkids only when they need something, like college tuition or car repairs. (I knew it would happen.) They do include me in events which require gifts, probably because I continue to be generous. Three other grandparents are very involved, which is fine, but I feel awkward and not cared about. My husband would be so disappointed. How should I handle this? -- WISTFUL WIDOW IN MICHIGAN

DEAR WIDOW: Handle it by facing reality. If you are invited to an event you don't wish to attend, send the "kid" or "grandkid" a nice card with your congratulations. If someone asks you why, be forthright. Tell the person you have realized the only times you were included are those that require gifts. Then be quiet, hang onto your sense of humor and listen. It's important that you focus your attention on moving forward in your life and doing things that bring you pleasure. Above all, do not nurture relationships in which you feel you are not valued.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.