Dear Amy: My 57-year-old husband has stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer. This is a terrible time for our family. My focus is on my husband and our two grown sons.
Then there is my narcissistic, manipulative mother. She's been my focus for several years because of many health issues. But her health is currently stable, and. as a result, she's not getting the attention she's gotten used to.
She calls several times a day and is always crying and needing comfort. She wants to have weekend get-togethers — every weekend — and gets mad when that doesn't happen.
I've told her that my husband isn't up to day-long gatherings. How do I make her understand that right now we are going to focus on what he needs and wants?
How can I make her understand that her "needing" to have weekend family gatherings isn't what's best for him, and her "needing" constant comforting isn't what my boys and I need?
Amy says: You could assume that your mother already empirically understands that your husband's needs outweigh her own at this point. But if she always has been narcissistic and manipulative, your husband's heartbreaking illness might cause her to simply up the ante in terms of needing to get your attention.
You might do better if you shift your focus away from trying to persuade her to become less selfish and more reasonable. This might be the moment where you decide to let your mother have and handle her own feelings.
Don't say, "This isn't about you, Mom." Because for her, it always will be about her. Find a way to say, "I hope you can figure out a way to handle your feelings. I can't do that for you."
Old flame burns out
Dear Amy: I recently reconnected with an old flame from nine years ago. We talked a few times, and then she asked (in her words) when I would "grace her with my presence."
I live two hours away, and I had plans for the following two weekends. I told her I could come to see her on the third weekend. She said that was too long to wait, and so I changed my plans to see her sooner.
The day of the planned meeting, she was supposed to text me a time and place to meet. When I didn't hear from her, I texted her at noon asking about plans. I didn't hear from her until 11:30 that night, when she texted me, asking what I was up to, as if we didn't have plans.
I didn't respond. We haven't communicated since.
I don't understand what the point was of going through all of that if she didn't want to meet up. I don't get it.
Amy says: I assume that this episode might have led you to recall why you and this woman broke up all those years ago.
Some people like to play games. Some people are mind-numbingly inconsiderate. Regardless of this woman's motivations, you now have all the information you need.
Dear Amy: Like a recent letter-writer, I also served (Navy) during Vietnam, and after discharge, I also hid my military service.
It took 50 years before my attitude changed.
What made the difference was my discovery of a group on Facebook, The Fallen Outdoors — thousands of proud veterans of all ages who love to hunt, fish and be outdoors —and who are eager to welcome and help each other at any time.
Now I am proud to be among the tiny minority of American citizens who have served in the military.
Amy says: Beautiful.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.