Dear Amy: My 82-year-old mother has an undiagnosed mental illness, marked by narcissism, paranoia, delusions, and abusive rages.
Beginning in my teens (I’m in my 50s now), she has caused long periods of estrangement over perceived slights, so she missed my wedding and the births of my children.
My father divorced her when I was eight years old.
And yet she also has better periods when she can be lovely and charming, and so whenever she called me to reconcile, I always did.
Throughout the pandemic, I visited her regularly, took her to her many doctor’s appointments, and helped her through other major problems. I did this because she has no one else – literally zero friends or other family willing to talk with or help her.
But then last year, because I failed to return her call during the single hour I was in church for a special Mother’s Day service (oh, the irony), she left me more than a half-dozen increasingly hostile and abusive voicemails.
I called her back and told her that we were done.
I then wrote her a long letter explaining why I was ending my relationship with her, and that the only way I would ever reconcile with her is if she agreed to see a psychiatrist (she has always refused any mental health consultation or treatment).
I then blocked her on my phone, so I don’t see her calls, but she can still leave voicemails.
Since then, she regularly leaves long, rambling voicemails to me that are self-aggrandizing and verbally abusive.
I have never returned any of these calls, but listening to the messages makes me feel awful.
I am tempted to change my phone number, but part of me feels terrible about leaving this frail, bitter, lonely and often sick old woman without any outlet at all. My therapist says that I’ve fulfilled my obligation to my mother many times over and I can just let her go without guilt.
I truly have no desire to have a relationship with her, but the guilt and sadness remain.
I welcome your advice.
Dear Unmothered: I don’t want to second-guess your therapist (I am not a therapist), but if we humans could simply let go of traumatic or problematic family relationships without guilt, then we wouldn’t have a need for therapy, scripture, poetry, Joni Mitchell’s music, or occasional sessions of simply seeking commiseration for our sadness and frustration.
I think it is vital to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings and to accept this very challenging situation as an almost inevitable consequence of a lifetime of being pulled back and forth by an unstable mother who has untreated mental illness.
Your compassion toward your mother is revealed in your narrative, so you should work toward staying in an attitude of compassion, mainly toward yourself for the choices you’ve been forced to make – but also toward your mother.
Dear Amy: Recently my husband's high school class organized a get together at a classmate’s home, with about 30 people in attendance.
I brought a bottle of wine and handed it to the hostess.
While chatting with some of his other classmates I was informed that there would be no alcohol being served. The hosts did have water and soft drinks.
Should I have asked for my wine back?
If they don't drink alcohol, what happened to my wine?
I'm being petty, but I am a …
– Vino Lover
Dear Vino: You are being petty. Surely you aren’t really wondering if you should have asked this host to de-gift this bottle of wine and hand it back to you.
You don’t know whether these hosts drink alcohol. You only know that they chose not to serve alcohol for this event.
What happens to this bottle next is very much up to them. If you invite them to dinner, you might see it returned to you as a host-gift.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your wise response to “Teen With No Experience,” who was worried that she didn’t have any sexual experience, yet.
I appreciated you pointing out that roughly half of teens report having sex, while the other half do not!
I shared this girl’s concerns when I was her age, and I want to thank you for pointing out that she is not alone.
These things have a way of working out, in time.
– Been There
Dear Been There: Things do have a way of working out, but of course teens lack this important perspective.
©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.