DEAR ABBY: Several years ago, I realized that my mother's eyesight and reflexes weren't what they once were, but she insisted on remaining behind the wheel. She was afraid of losing her independence if she gave up driving. Then she had a traffic accident that shook her enough to make her finally relinquish her keys - but she wasn't happy about it.
The solution I came up with was to sell her car, put the money in an interest-bearing account and contract with a local cab company to have a taxi at Mom's assisted-living facility whenever she needed transportation. Instead of billing her, they would send me an itemized statement and add a 20 percent gratuity, so Mom wouldn't have to worry about tipping.
In addition, they also agreed to carry Mother's packages and groceries to her door, and if she'd be less than a half-hour at her destination, the cab would wait for her. The company even agreed to use only three drivers, so Mom could get to know them.
When I visited her for dinner soon after these arrangements were made, I learned she was the hit of her assisted-living facility! Other residents told me what a great idea the taxi service was. What I didn't realize at the time was that Mom was inviting everyone there to come with her - her treat - to department stores, the market, even the theater. Prior to this, few of them got out at night because of poor eyesight or fear of being alone.
Using the interest-earning account and realizing the savings of not having to pay car insurance, upkeep, gas, etc., nobody was out of pocket. Mother was safe, and she discovered many new friends where she lived.
While Mom never totally forgave me for selling her car, I know she enjoyed her new freedom. And I was touched to meet all three of her taxi drivers when they came to her funeral. - CARL IN CALIFORNIA
Dear Carl: You made your mother's transition as painless as it could possibly be. Congratulations for finding a clever solution to a sticky problem. No one wants to give up driving and the independence that goes with it. But at some point, everyone who lives long enough must.
DEAR ABBY: Want another letter for your "Can you top this?" file? I have one for you.
My wife and I were invited to a 25th wedding anniversary party for my brother and his wife. We arrived with a gift, as did the other guests. It was a lovely gathering, and everyone congratulated "Bob and Mary" on their 25 wedded years.
A little over a year ago, Bob and Mary "separated." Imagine our family's surprise when Bob revealed that he and Mary had been divorced eight years earlier! Our family had no idea and neither did their friends.
Abby, this couple thought they were "entitled" to a 25th anniversary party and all the presents that go with it - which they kept, by the way. Some folks will do anything for gifts, I guess. - DISILLUSIONED SISTER IN VIRGINIA
Dear Disillusioned Sister: Some people will do almost anything to keep up appearances. But faking a marriage eight years after the union has been dissolved is carrying things a bit too far - and accepting 25th anniversary gifts for a marriage that's been over for almost a decade is out of the ballpark.