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Hospice volunteer stunned by family's generous gift

DEAR ABBY: For a few years, I volunteered to tend to an elderly woman through a hospice organization. My role was to visit with her while her son ran errands or enjoyed an evening of entertainment. I grew fond of her and her family.

For my 70th birthday, her daughter, son and daughter-in-law hosted an at-home dinner in my honor. It was good fun. In addition to a tasty dinner and homemade birthday cake, there were presents: wine, gag wine glass and a birthday card with a gift card enclosed. The wine is long gone, and I have used the wine glass ever since.

I left the gift card in the birthday card and set it aside. I recently wanted to buy a $20 coffee mug online, so I pulled out the gift card and was shocked to see the value of the card is almost four times more than the mug I fancied. I feel the gift is too much. How do I gracefully return the very generous gift? 

OVERWHELMED IN WASHINGTON

DEAR OVERWHELMED: Your heart is in the right place, but please do not reject that family's gift of gratitude for what you did for their mother — and for them — during a difficult time. To do otherwise would be a breach of etiquette. Your acts of kindness are worth every penny, and you are deserving of what was given to you.

DEAR ABBY: My husband of 55 years never talks to me anymore. Unless I initiate conversation, he sits in silence, staring off into space. He says he has "nothing to say." It drives me crazy. I suppose, after all these years, anything he says has been said before, but still, it leaves me feeling lonely and unloved.

When I tell him how it makes me feel, he says it isn't the case, but he never changes. We don't have TV, and I can read and do crossword puzzles by myself for just so long. I really look forward to the evening, when I can start drinking my whiskey, so I have a little pleasure in my life. I don't have more than a couple of drinks because I understand the health risks, but tell me, what else can I do? 

— TALKING TO MYSELF IN TEXAS

DEAR TALKING: What you can do is quit drinking to ease your loneliness and get out of the house. Socialize with others at least once a week. Look into opportunities to volunteer in your community. Take your husband with you if you can pry him out of his chair. The only thing you should NOT do is continue on the path you're on.

P.S. If your husband's passivity is new behavior, consider going with him to the doctor so he can be screened for depression. (While you're there, it might not be a bad idea for you to be screened for it as well.)

DEAR ABBY: This is not a big drama, but I think that if someone wants to give out my email address, they should first ask me for permission. I just received an email from an acquaintance telling me they had given out my email and THEN asking me if that was OK. No, it wasn't! Abby, I'm not in witness protection, but my email address is private. Am I crazy? 

— CRANKY ON LONG ISLAND

DEAR CRANKY: Crazy? Not at all. What your nervy acquaintance did was breach whatever privacy is left in our society these days, which was thoughtless, rude and inexcusable.

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