Dear Lola,

My elderly mother lives in an assisted living condo that is small, but perfect for her needs. My siblings are constantly purchasing her large gifts, despite her protests that she has no place to store them. My sister recently bought her a silver tea service for four, yet my mother’s condo cannot possibly fit four people in it – not to mention my mother doesn’t entertain guests since she isn’t even capable of caring for herself. Whenever my siblings leave, my mother will ask me to pack away their gifts and keep them in a closet at my home. I’ve tried explaining to my siblings that our mother needs meals and companionship instead of clutter, but they claim they just don’t have the time to cook her meals and bring them over. Instead, they continue to send gifts they find on the internet. What do you recommend I say to get through to them?


Sensible Sibling

Dear Sensible Sibling,

Today I was fortunate enough to spend the day with a few of my dearest human friends and family, surrounded by flying predators intent on murdering me. If you remove the threat of death by feathered fiend, it was a wonderful day of laughter and companionship on a warm spring day. Better than all of that, no one had to find a place to store a useless hunk of silver at the end of the visit.

Though your mother could use the silver to ward off any angry birds with menace in their eyes.

It’s hard to ascertain if your siblings are unwilling or unable to give your mother what she really needs to lead a happy life in her final years. I am leaning towards unwillingness being the culprit since they are financially capable of sending her pointless gifts that cost them both time and money. Unfortunately, that means this problem has no easy solution. Your siblings can purchase these absurd gifts as they sit in front of their televisions, enjoying the latest shows and eating the dinners they lovingly prepare for themselves. Not only do they assuage your siblings’ guilt, these gifts replace their presence in your mother’s life because she can think of them as she looks at the chunks of metal cluttering up her small abode.

I’m going to take a minute to play devil’s advocate, I just need to find my pitchfork.

Are there any reasons your siblings might be purposely staying away from your mother? Childhood trauma, personality clashes, or long disputes over family issues can all contribute to children not wanting to be around their parents – and vice versa. There are many cases in which the best course of action for a family is to stay distant and see each other infrequently, if at all. Think about this aspect of your family and make sure you think it is a good idea for your siblings to get more involved in your mother’s life.

I’m done playing devil’s advocate, but I find I kind of like the horns.

This matter doesn’t have to become contentious. Simply point out to your siblings that while your mother loves gifts, she no longer has the space to put them and they wind up at your home for disposal – be it to the trash or the refund department. If they are unhappy with this idea, they should gift your mother with a hot meal delivered to her door by any number of restaurants that offer the service. Your siblings have already demonstrated their willingness to purchase gifts online and have them sent to your mother’s door.

If they like clicking buttons, simply direct them to the buttons that should be clicked!

As far as future interactions, you need to acknowledge that this is a problem between your mother and her other children. Once you have stated your case to your siblings, it is time to let it go. You cannot control your siblings, nor should you try. It won’t end well for you, as evidenced by the number of mafia movies that start with a handful of siblings and end with only one left alive.

Digging a hole is a lot harder than you think – canines know this from experience.

You should also begin returning all of those useless gifts cluttering up your closet. You can use the money to indulge your mother in something she truly wants, like a day at the salon getting her hair dyed blue!


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