DEAR AMY: I am a single woman living with a male roommate in a small apartment.
My parents, who are in their late 60s and live six hours away, seem to think it is perfectly fine to announce that they are visiting with one day's notice. When they are bored, they just announce that they're coming. If I say I have plans, they say "Drop them."
After years of these visit bombs, including frantic last-minute housecleaning and listening to hours of their daily fighting, I finally got them to stay in a hotel, but they insist on staying 45 minutes away to save a few dollars. So I drive out there, and they lay on a guilt trip.
They spend the weekend criticizing me and fighting with each other.
I want to spend time with my aging parents, but the resentment and feeling of disrespect is so high that it seems I should just avoid them altogether.
— Can't Deal
DEAR CAN'T DEAL: The fact that your parents stay in a hotel is a huge step in the right direction. Not only are they not underfoot during their visit bombs, but you can escape their confines when things get too intense.
Avoiding them completely isn't really an option because you say that you want to see them — so you'll have to manage them differently. Mix things up by doing an activity together instead of hanging around their hotel room. Don't drop important plans you have and tell them in advance that you'll have to leave at a specific time.
If they start to criticize you or fight, you'll have to be brave enough to say, "This visit isn't working out. I don't like the way you're treating me, so I'm going to leave now."
DEAR AMY: We have a small group of friends who get together at least once a month. One of the men in the group died during the winter. My husband and I went to the funeral, and sent a note expressing our condolences, etc., to his wife, who is also part of this group.
She will not speak to us because we haven't called her since the funeral.
I have a business that is very busy in the spring months. My husband travels. We also own several rental properties. This has taken up all of our available time. But now we have been excluded from the last two gatherings of this group, and we were told that our friend was angry with us because we had not been in touch with her.
Amy, our friendship goes back many years.
Don't people handle death in different ways?
I called her house the other day and her husband's voice is still on the answering machine. It made me cry. I'm not sure how to deal with this.
DEAR UPSET: People do handle death in different ways. Some people — like you and your husband — leave their condolences at the funeral and then hope life will pick up its normal rhythm as soon as possible.
But grief is tricky. It stalks you at the grocery store and taps you on the shoulder at the library. Grief can make you irrational, prickly, sad and needy.
You are coping with this loss by throwing yourself into your other commitments. But one of your commitments should be to nurture your friendships.
Don't expect your friend to give two hoots about how you are coping with this loss. You neglected her when you should have extended yourself. The only thing to do is to admit this and apologize, without offering excuses. They will all seem self-serving and hollow.
DEAR AMY: It is so sad to watch the ongoing debate over "naming rights" in your column.
Do parents who favor different surnames for the kids not appreciate the unity, integrity and identity that comes with all family members sharing the same last name?
In all likelihood, mothers who pass down their surname (maiden name) are in fact handing down their own father's surname. If mothers are proud of the surnames that were given to them by their fathers, then why would they want to deprive their offspring of the same honor and privilege?
DEAR DEPRESSED: Great question.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.