Dear Abby: My older sister, “Olive,” moved to the West Coast three years ago.

Advice column

Dear Abby: My older sister, “Olive,” moved to the West Coast three years ago. My parents, my two older siblings and I live on the East Coast. During this past year, Olive has grown more and more distant from us. She always has an excuse when we try to set up a group Facetime or even a phone call. This has happened dozens of times now.

Most recently, our extended family set up a Zoom call with about 30 of us. Everyone was able to make at least a portion of it, including all my cousins and aunts and uncles. Olive, however, said she will “be there next time” because she needed to do some mulching around her house and wanted to start limiting her screen time.

My parents, siblings and I have each talked with her directly about how blowing us off is hurtful and painful, yet she continues to do it. At this point, everyone is fed up, especially Mom, who got hung up on twice while trying to address these problems with Olive. What else can we do? We cannot seem to get through.

Fed-up Brother

Dear Brother: Do you know why your sister moved to the West Coast? Was it job-related, or could it have been that she needed space and didn’t feel she could have it if she lived geographically closer? Because her withdrawal has become increasingly overt over the past year, it’s important that someone understand what is driving it.

A relative other than your mother (who got hung up on twice) who is close to Olive should give her a call and, in as gentle a manner as possible, explain the family is worried about her and ask if anything is wrong that any of you can help with. She may be having a difficult time emotionally, or she may simply be craving some space. But you won’t know until someone can get a straight answer.

Dear Abby: My husband’s sister is morbidly obese, and we are very concerned about her health. We know her weight is a delicate topic, but if she were drowning in a lake instead of in fat, we would try to throw her the same kind of lifeline.

We feel compelled to express our concern about her health. We know that how this is approached can make a big difference. We both feel she would benefit by seeing a counselor to confront life issues that may have caused her overeating. Can you please suggest a way to phrase it? We love her and want her to live a long and healthy life.

Scared for Sister-in-law

Dear Scared: Your sister-in-law is well aware that she is dangerously heavy, so this is a subject you can address only once without causing a rift in the family. The message might be accepted better if it came from her brother, and it should be phrased something like this:

“I hope you know how much I love you. My wife and I are deeply concerned about your weight because we’re afraid we might lose you. If there are issues that have caused this, would you consider talking to a counselor about them? If your doctor can’t refer you to someone qualified, we can ask ours for some names. And if what I have said is hurtful, I sincerely apologize and hope you will forgive me. I won’t bring up the subject again.”

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.