Dear Annie: I am writing to ask your opinion about the change in my sister’s behavior toward me. I have two sisters, and the one I am speaking of is my elder sister, “Ruth.”
Ruth has always been envious of my younger sister and me and resented the close relationship I had with our father.
Until recently, Ruth would call me about once a week to say hello and check on me. I would call and say hello to her. She lives about 2 1/2 hours away from me. Her husband passed away suddenly, and it was some time after that when I noticed a difference in the way she relates to me. Her calls have been less frequent. When I call her, she has very little to say and then says she has to go. I don’t believe she has a health problem. She is still working. Her children live nearby.
On her birthday, I sent a card and called her. She was polite but guarded in her conversation.
She has never been a particularly happy person, but her behavior has changed drastically.
When I called her before Thanksgiving, I commented that I had not heard from her since June, and she said she was staying busy. I have thought and thought, but I cannot think of anything I could have done to offend her. Family has always meant a great deal to me. What are your thoughts? — Puzzled Sister
Dear Puzzled Sister: Consider the possibility that she’s acting distant not just toward you but toward everyone. She may be suffering from depression triggered by her husband’s passing — or at the very least be grieving deeply. People can seem to be in perfectly good health on the outside but be hurting badly on the inside. You might try reaching out to her children — not speaking ill of their mother or causing undue concern but simply asking whether all is well with them and with her. Maybe your nieces and nephews have noticed the change in her behavior, too, and will be glad you asked.
Lastly, let go of the idea that Ruth has always been envious of you and your sister. That kind of baggage is what piles up between family members, preventing real communication.
Dear Annie: In this country, how many young people ever ask for advice from older generations on anything? Almost none. We’ve been raised to assume that those born in the computer age know everything there is to know about everything. Not true.
The result is that millions of older folks feel invisible, isolated and depressed and that younger folks make some big mistakes.
Turn to an older person in your family today -- parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle -- and simply ask for the person’s input on some plan you are considering. You don’t have to take the advice; just ask.
The result will be an elder who still feels respected and valuable for having wisdom. And this person may reveal a story from his or her own past that (surprise, surprise) just might give you some fabulously useful bits of guidance, some pearls of wisdom. At the very least, family bonds will be strengthened. — Sally
Dear Sally: I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Mature folks are an infinitely greater source of wisdom than any search engine.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.