When visitors tell you they’re coming

As I write this, I’m thinking of my mother, wondering if she suffered the same “agonies”: happy anticipation with a good measure of fear as she awaited my arrival for a visit in her home.

My own daughter is due here soon for several days — not quite a week. She is fearless; she drives by herself everywhere she wants to go. Her last solo took her from her home in Champaign, Illinois, to that of her younger of two sons, in Bozeman, Montana. Where she ever found the nerve to make such a long trip alone is beyond me; I certainly never taught, certainly did not encourage, her to do such a thing. I am the cautious one…

But I’ve noticed something interesting (although not always pleasing) about how the “younger generation” deals with relatives who don’t live anywhere near them: They do not ask us whether or not we’d like a visit, and even if we do, when it should be. They now TELL us they’re coming, without asking; they assume we’re always ready for them.

A month or so ago, I got a phone call from a first cousin who lives in sunny Southern California: “I’m coming to spend a week with you,” she announced. No question, just a statement of fact: “I already have my plane ticket!” And she gave me all her arrival and departure information, just like that! I guess I’m almost ashamed to say that I wouldn’t have asked her to change anything, even if it had been outrageously inconvenient for me; I would have felt responsible to do all the schedule changing myself. Can you help me figure out why? Well — yes indeed, we had been working together by phone and email on a family history, but no way had I anticipated this totally unanticipated personal visit!

Fast forward: Soon after, my daughter emails the announcement that she’s also coming to spend the bulk of a week with me. No question at all that I wouldn’t be positively thrilled, or that the timing might not be at all convenient, or that I’d at least have needed some more advance notice in order to do something with what was already on my own calendar. And now, I’m just wondering whom I’ll hear from next, and when that might be.

In those long-gone “olden days” when I visited my mother, I would consult with her far in advance to choose a time (and length of visit!) of mutual convenience. What has happened to participation in decision-making about two-party events these days, when one party seems to be making all these decisions solo?

If I’m the only one having these repeated experiences, please let me know; maybe I’m the one doing something wrong. If I’m not, and others (seniors or others) who are reading this are having the same experience — what is wrong with US? I don’t suppose the world would stop turning if I said to someone, “That’s really not a good time for me.” But that’s hard to say to a dearly beloved who has already purchased a plane ticket…

So I would really like to find out if this is a problem with my family only, or if I indeed have company these days. Please let me know whether you’ve had any related experiences that you feel able to share. Maybe you’re not a “certified senior” and are going through the same things at a much younger age? Currently I’m of the opinion that this is a sea-change in consideration of others washing over us today, and I, for one, am drowning in it…

Harriet Gross can be reached at

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