DEAR ABBY: My sister faced various life-threatening illnesses. She always said, "Never put off telling the people you love how you feel about them because you might not have a tomorrow." She practiced what she preached, and we all knew that she loved us. When she passed away eight years ago, it was a painful loss, especially for our mother.
Last week Mom finally succeeded in talking Dad into opening a stuck drawer in a cabinet. Inside she found a letter from my sister that had been put away and forgotten years ago. In the letter my sister wrote how blessed she felt she was to have a mother like ours, how all the sacrifices Mom made for her had been appreciated and how much she loved her.
That long-forgotten letter is now my mother's most prized possession. Please remind your readers not to take tomorrow for granted, and to tell those they love how they feel today. -- JULIE'S SISTER IN LOUISVILLE, KY.
DEAR SISTER: The loving message your sister wrote has conveyed her feelings from beyond the grave, and it is understandable that it is even more meaningful now than when it was written. I'm glad to remind readers to verbalize their affection for each other. But the written word is something that can be savored over and over.
DEAR ABBY: My brother mocks everything I do, the friends I spend time with and my politics. When we're together, he is often condescending and confrontational. I'm tired of arguing when I go to his home and he asks me what's going on. I have started to answer, "Nothing." So now he tells me how "boring" I am, in addition to his other criticisms.
Abby, his comments are hurtful and I try to stay away from him, but I love my little nieces and want to be around them as they grow up. I don't have problems with anyone but him. Our other brother stopped talking to him years ago, but I don't think I can do anything that extreme.
How can I change the dynamic in our relationship? It doesn't seem to have progressed since we were kids. -- UNDER ATTACK IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR UNDER ATTACK: The dynamic in your relationship hasn't changed since you were kids because your brother never stopped being a bully. He calls you boring when you don't take the bait because he considers belittling you to be a form of entertainment. You can't change him. If you point out what he's doing, he will deny it and blame you for being "too sensitive."
You can, however, understand his childish motivation. Ignore him as much as possible and focus your attention on your nieces since that's your only reason for going over there anyway.
DEAR ABBY: I have been with my partner for six years. She is 14 years older than I am. We get along great and have a wonderful relationship.
"Marsha" and I live in a small Southern city. She is well-known and politically active. While everyone knows she is gay, they rarely realize I'm her partner because I look much younger. We are often approached with, "Oh, is this your daughter?"
How are we supposed to respond? Marsha and I work in the same place, so it happens there, too. It's awkward. Any ideas? -- AIN'T MY MAMA
DEAR AIN'T: Because Marsha is a public person and it's no secret she's gay, when the two of you are asked if you are mother and daughter, Marsha should reply, "No, she is my partner." (And ask them to spread the word.)
TO MY CHRISTIAN READERS: I wish each and every one of you a very merry and meaningful Christmas.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)