DEAR ABBY: My sister "Ruth" and I spent most holidays dining out together after our families grew up and left home. Ruth died last year and her daughter "Lara" began inviting me for holidays "so I wouldn't be alone." I have tried to decline, but she persists. She insists that I should be with her instead of with friends, although her plans are always tentative and often change at the last minute.
Last Christmas she invited me to a community holiday dinner at 2 p.m. with her friends. At the last minute she called to say we'd be dining at her house in the evening instead, which meant I spent the entire day alone doing nothing. The dinner was grim because they were arguing.
At Easter, Lara called saying plans were "up in the air." At noon on Easter day, she called to say her husband's sister was visiting and they planned to hike in the state park and have a picnic - something that I physically cannot do. She said they planned to have dinner for me "sometime soon." So, once again, I spent the holiday alone.
Should I call Lara and tell her exactly how I feel, or just write a script for the next time she calls?
- Had it in the Southwest
DEAR HAD IT: If you'd prefer to spend the holidays with friends instead of being reminded of sad memories and feeling obligated, you should decline Lara's future invitations. If your niece pressures you, explain that you have already made plans with friends.
Although her heart may be in the right place, from your description of your niece's social skills, they leave much to be desired. Do not allow her to make you feel guilty and change your mind. Your feelings are valid.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 45-year-old single male with a job I enjoy. Last June, a cousin who is close to my age married for the second time. He married a girl 20 years younger whom he had known less than six months.
Although I was unable to attend the wedding, I sent them a nice card with a generous cash gift. I never received a thank-you note for it and although I was offended, I overlooked their rudeness.
Six weeks later, my cousin's new bride called my place of employment and left an "emergency" message to phone her. (She left a second one with a neighbor of mine.) Very worried and not knowing what to expect, I called her immediately.
The "emergency" turned out to be a request for a loan of $500. I was angry but tried not to show it. After thinking about it, I agreed to the loan, although my cousin's wife had hinted that I should give them a larger amount. We agreed on a repayment plan.
I had misgivings about helping them, but somehow my aunt - my cousin's mother - became involved. She kept insisting I lend them the money. (They were living with her at the time.)
It has been more than eight months and they have made no effort to pay me back. To make matters worse, they avoid me. My aunt acts as though it's all right for them to treat me this way. I am angry, hurt and feel my trust has been betrayed. What do you think I should do now?
- Used in Missouri
DEAR USED: I think you should write off the loan and thank your lucky stars that you weren't conned into giving this deadbeat couple more money. If you are asked for more - which isn't out of the realm of possibility - you can now say, "No, because you didn't repay the first loan I gave you." Think about it. You may have gotten off cheap.