Dear Abby: Distant sisters work to close the gap in their relationship

A few years ago, my sister mailed me a long letter.

Dear Abby: A few years ago, my sister mailed me a long letter detailing her resentment for me and our lack of closeness. She said she wanted to have a relationship. After reading it, I reached out to her and thanked her for her openness. I agreed that I, too, would like to be closer.

I am eight years older than she is, and we live in different states. Growing up, our mother didn’t take time to foster our relationship. I’m now married and have a baby. She’s going her way, too, beginning a new career.

Lately our relationship has become one-sided. I’m almost always the one to initiate a phone call or message, and when I do, she doesn’t always respond. When we talk, I ask her about herself, and that seems to be the focus of conversation. Or we talk about my baby.

Our relationship doesn’t feel genuine to me. I feel obligated to call her, but she doesn’t reciprocate. Must I keep this up because we’re family, or should I tell her how I feel in the hope that our relationship could become a two-way street? She’s sensitive, and I’m worried that if I bring it up it will make things worse.

Struggling Sister

In Massachusetts

Dear Struggling Sister: It’s all right to tell your sister that when she doesn’t respond to your calls or messages, it’s hurtful. But rather than say you feel the relationship has become one-sided, which could be interpreted as a criticism of her, explain that you realize both of you are busy people. Then suggest the two of you agree to schedule a call every month or so to catch up. If she truly wants the relationship she requested, it shouldn’t be too much of a burden for her.

Dear Abby: In reference to the letter from “Grossed Out in Florida” (Feb. 6) and your response, regarding people who blow their noses at the supper table, especially older people, you need to be more understanding. Many older adults suffer from what is called “gustatory rhinitis,” or a runny nose brought on by eating hot or spicy foods.

These people exhibit a profuse, watery nasal discharge when eating that is made worse by emotions, alcohol, temperature and strong odors. It is not something they can control. And as much as most would prefer to leave the table to blow their noses, they would not be able to eat much if they had to keep leaving.

It is hard enough to get some elders to eat an adequate diet without insisting they excuse themselves every few minutes to blow their noses, and just “tiny dabs with a tissue” would be totally inadequate to control the flow. Please, folks, show some compassion and just look the other way.


In Naperville, Ill.

Dear R.N.: Thank you for that useful information. I received numerous letters in response to that column from seniors mentioning “gustatory rhinorrhea” (along with allergies) as the reason they blow their noses at the dinner table. Not a day goes by that I don’t receive a letter about nose-blowing, so I’m hoping your letter will educate readers on the subject, as it did me.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.