Dear Annie: I live in the Midwest. My husband and I have a good friend who dines with us quite often, usually once or twice a week, as well as on holidays. She is a longtime friend. The problem is this: She never brings anything with her when asked to dinner. She never asks us to her place for a meal. She never offers to buy dinner when we go out, maybe once a year. She never offers to bring carryout. She is fairly close and watches our house when we are out of town, which we appreciate. How do we proceed with solving this problem without alienating her? — Hungry
Dear Hungry: The next time you invite her over for dinner, simply say, "Oh, by the way, would you please bring an appetizer" (or dessert or side dish). Mention it as though it's the most natural thing in the world. There's no reason for you to feel awkward. It's perfectly appropriate. If you have any hesitations, just imagine if the tables were turned — that you'd been dining at a friend's house for years and then she casually asked you to bring something to dinner that week. Would you feel indignant? No. If anything, you'd perhaps feel embarrassed that she had to ask.
Dear Annie: I lost my wife of 42 and 1/2 years in late 2014. I met her when she was 15, started dating when she was 17, and I married Shirley when she was 20 and I was 21. A friend of 41 years had previously lost his wife and stepped in to assist me in navigating the loss. He had attended a multiweek grief class years before and shared this event.
A petite woman faithfully attended grief classes each week for a long time and never spoke a word to the group.
Finally, at the close of the class, she spoke saying, "I'd like to say something." Everyone stopped talking, almost in disbelief. The room was quiet. She continued: "Profound grief of a spouse is like accidentally and significantly cutting your arm. It hurts really bad and seems that you may never stop the bleeding. But you do. Not too long after, you bump the wound and the scab comes off. It bleeds and hurts for a long time, and then begins to heal again. This process repeats itself over and over for a long time. One day, you look at your arm and see a tender scar that will be part of you for the rest of your life. The scar is there, but it doesn't hurt like when it was a new wound, and the bleeding has stopped."
I've shared this with so many since it was first told to me. It seems to resonate with anyone who knows the loss of a beloved spouse.
Thanks for all you do every day to help so many people you don't even know and will never meet. — Rob R., Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Dear Rob: Your letter brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for passing on this wisdom. I'm so sorry for your loss.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]
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