Dear Annie: I have lived within a day’s drive of my eldest sister for many years. Several years ago, as she was getting back on her feet after a divorce, I went to visit for Christmas. I had a great time. But after that, things seemed to get progressively tenser with each visit.
She started participating as a foster parent for infants and canceled a Christmas visit to us on short notice because she had to look after her first child over the holiday. I tried to be supportive of her new endeavor, but when I asked about the family situation that put the child in foster care, I was snippily told, “That’s confidential. I can’t talk about that.”
She is hurt that I am ignoring her now. But she has yet to invite us for a visit since canceling the Christmas visit several years ago. Email communication gets twisted, and she doesn’t call by phone. She signs her emails, “May God bless your day,” and when I told her that bothers me, she got very defensive. What am I missing?
Dear Puzzled: First, I don’t think there’s any puzzle piece that would click and snap everything into place along with it. Your sister’s behavior has very little to do with you and everything to do with where she is on her own path to self-discovery.
Perhaps you two could plan a trip somewhere halfway between your town and hers. The neutral ground might help you both relax. Tell her that you’re proud of her for committing to taking care of a foster child, and ask her how that idea came to her. Seek to understand.
And keep in mind that in the aftermath of her divorce, your sister could have gone in any number of dark directions. Instead, she found solace in faith and charity. Good for her.
Dear Annie: I’ve recently read some letters to you about servers in restaurants. Personally, one thing that grates on my ears like fingernails on a chalkboard is when a server addresses me and says, “How are we?” Then he or she asks, “Are we ready to order?” or “Are we celebrating something special?”
I can’t stand the “we” thing. Servers are not part of our experience, other than waiting on us. Is this something new training includes, or is it a personal choice?
— Annoyed Patron
Dear Annoyed Patron: Servers’ livelihoods depend on tips, and studies have shown that personable little gestures from a server, such as drawing a smiley face on the check, inspire patrons to leave bigger tips than they otherwise would. Warmth is rewarded. So that might explain the “How are we?” phenomenon. I get that it peeves you, but try to empathize with your server rather than be irritated by her. She’s just doing her job.