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Family keeps calling busy surgeon at work

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Dear Abby: I am the youngest of five siblings. There is a large age gap between my older siblings and me, and quite frankly, despite the fact that I am now a 38-year-old physician, they seem not to take me seriously.

My problem is that my family members insist upon calling me while I am at work. I am a surgeon, and although you might find this hard to believe, these folks think that because they are "family" it's OK to contact me at any time during the day. I have tried to explain that I need to focus on my patients during office hours, but they continue to call, write and send packages to me at the office.

I have instructed my staff not to interrupt me and to inform any family member who calls that I prefer to be called at home, unless there is a life-threatening emergency. My father and oldest brother have actually been rude to my staff and have later chastised me for my policy. Every member of my family has my home address and telephone number, but the behavior continues. Complicating the matter, my family has never cared much for my beloved wife of eight years, whom they have wrongly accused of not passing on messages.

What steps would you take to remedy this behavior? My family members read your column, so your response would be greatly appreciated. — Troubled in Tacoma

Dear Troubled: I don't blame you for feeling annoyed. Despite your considerable achievements, your parents and siblings still regard you as the baby of the family who should be available to them at the drop of a scalpel. That you have a medical practice to maintain is less important to them than immediate gratification. Since your requests to receive personal calls at home are ignored, instructing your staff to protect you is about the best you can do.

P.S. Perhaps if you returned their calls promptly, your wife would not be blamed so often for failing to relay phone messages.

Dear Abby: My family needs your help to solve a serious problem that is causing hard feelings. My wife's cousin, who is from a middle-class family, is being married this summer. He and the bride are planning a large wedding, and we were told the invitations will state "formal attire."

Abby, very few, if any, of the guests own formal attire, and family members feel the dress code is rude and inconsiderate. It creates an expense we should not have to bear to attend the wedding.

I also need to know if we will be expected to purchase a gift for the couple if we go to the expense of buying formal attire. It seems to us that our presence in expensive formal attire should be present enough. What should the family do about attending the wedding with this restriction on the attire of the guests? — Confused in Overland Park, Kan.

Dear Confused: The cost of attire is not a substitute for a wedding gift. If you rent or buy formal wear and attend, you should stretch your budget far enough to get the couple at least a token gift. However, if attending a formal wedding will create a financial hardship, send the couple your very best wishes on this happy occasion, along with your regrets for skipping the ceremony.

Dear Abby: The item in your column, "You know you're getting older when . . . " prompts this letter. This really happened to me:

You know you're old when your doctor is the same age as your grandchildren. What a wake-up call that was! — Briar McCutcheon, Portland, Ore.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.) © Universal Press Syndicate