Dear Annie: I am a single 40-year-old man. The past 18 months have been rough for my family. My father passed away, and my mother moved to Florida. Then she had a mild stroke. I have always liked Florida, so I decided to move with Mom and help care for her. My two brothers still live in our old hometown with their families.
Ever since our move here, my brothers have given me the cold shoulder. I heard through the grapevine that they believe I am controlling Mom’s money and taking advantage of her. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I have put my life on hold to make my mother’s life better. She forgets to take her medications and has lost interest in cooking. So I cook her meals, take her wherever she wants to go, make her doctors’ appointments and see that she takes the required meds.
I have told my brothers the truth of the situation, and so has my mother, but nothing seems to change their minds. We have always been a close family, and I don’t want that to change. Is there something I can do to fix this?
-- Confused in Florida
Dear Confused: Your brothers may be suspicious, but it is also likely there is some guilt mixed in, causing them to resent you and your importance to Mom. The best way to handle this is to include them as much as possible.
Ask their opinion on Mom’s medical treatments and any major decisions. Make all financial dealings completely transparent. Send them regular updates and copies of her checkbook balance, her investments, her cash outlay -- everything. Better yet, ask them to come to Florida to spend a week with Mom and see how she’s doing.
Dear Annie: I have known my best friend for more than 20 years. For the past three, she has completely forgotten my birthday. She usually remembers belatedly and phones, mortified that she overlooked it. She then writes a card and gives a gift.
I don’t know what to say when the awkward phone call comes. My feelings are hurt that my birthday isn’t automatic for her because we’ve known each other for so long. I also know that she manages to remember the birthdays of other friends she hasn’t known as long and whose birthdays are around the same time as mine.
What should I say when she tells me she “can’t believe” she has forgotten my birthday once again?
-- Perplexed in Pennsylvania
Dear Perplexed: It’s possible that your friend is so confident that your birthday is something she’ll remember that she doesn’t bother to write it down and consequently forgets until it’s too late. Or she might remember but not have a moment to call, and by the time things settle down, it’s slipped her mind.
She may also be having memory issues that she is too embarrassed to mention. We don’t believe it is deliberate, because it requires much more effort to call, apologize and then send a card and a gift. The next time she does this, make a joke of it. Suggest she invest in some belated birthday cards for next year.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Second Best in Michigan,” whose husband’s widowed mother controls everything, including picking her husband’s clothes and scheduling their holiday gatherings.
My husband’s mother was widowed when we married 37 years ago. He was an only child. I can tell “Michigan” that she will always be second best. My husband and I went to counseling, but as you said, Annie, the key part is the willingness of the husband to change. In my marriage, change was never successful for any length of time.
If “Michigan’s” husband doesn’t stand up to Mom now, he never will. She would be happier in the long run without him.
-- Hate To See You Suffer, Too
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