Dear Amy: My partner and I have a problem dealing with his elderly parents' lack of social skills.
We keenly feel the obligation to be with them to retain a relationship, but after a couple of hours there really is nothing for us to talk about.
Visits require three hours of travel time one way, and so an afternoon or evening together is never enoughthere must be an overnight.
We feel like insensitive and ungrateful brats for not being able to endure being the audience to their excruciating stories full of half-remembered details and tangents.
We have tried to talk about our lives and experiences but that only reminds them of their lives and experiences and thus the monologue takes flight.
Is this just a situation that must be endured? Is it possible that they feel the discomfort but just fill it with the only talk they know how to do?
Are all elderly people like this? Or can you offer us some way that might help us to be with these people that we would like to love but who make it very difficult?
--Tapped Out in Indiana
Dear Tapped Out: I am frequently around elderly people who are not at all boring--so you shouldn't assume that all older people become this way. You should, however, check your own basic tolerance level and make a point of trying harder not just to tolerate, but to try to enjoy these visits.
I have two thoughts. One is for you to engineer a shape and direction for these visits to make them less tedious for everyone. You could do this by diving in to family history through old photographs, family trees, etc. Decide that you will be engaged, and ask questions as you go. Ask them to relate their experiences to current events.
The other is for you to basically duck and cover by treating this elderly couple to new experiences.
On your visits, you should plan at least one outing for all of you--not only a meal out, but perhaps a visit to a museum, concert or local attraction.
Dear Amy: It's that time of year again!
The graduation invites are flowing in. Some are legit, while others are outright money grabs.
One very clever mom (actually a very talented salesperson) whom we only see about every two years and the grad in question not in the last eight years has booked her event three months out, all but killing any alibis/excuses to opt out.
What's the financial expectation/obligation on this stuff, if any?
Like tipping in Las Vegas, it's getting out of control.