Absent mother uses guilt to manipulate her child

Published 8:40 am Thursday, December 29, 2022

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DEAR ABBY: I have always been the outsider in my family. My grandma raised me because Mom was an alcoholic and ran the streets with her boyfriend. My grandma died three months ago, and I have been having a hard time dealing with it.
My mother has moved into my grandma’s house and wants me to come visit her. This is a problem because everywhere I look, it reminds me of my grandma. I have told her this, but she thinks that since she’s painted and decorated it differently, it shouldn’t be a problem for me.
I am the only child who has anything to do with her (she gave up my oldest sister), and she uses guilt when I don’t come out and help her clean or go grocery shopping for her. I was raised to believe that we should take care of our elders, but I still have issues with her not being in my life growing up. I don’t know how to handle this without just refusing to go. What should I do? — CONFLICTED IN MISSOURI

DEAR CONFLICTED: Tell your mother the truth, just as you related it to me. Explain that although she may have painted and redecorated the house, seeing the place without your grandmother in it is depressing and you are no longer willing to do it. And the next time she asks you to help her clean or go shopping for her, say no and tell her why. Unless you have left something out of your letter about your relationship with her over the last decade, I don’t think you should feel obligated to her at all.
DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law, 78, was a caregiver for 10 years before his wife died five years ago. After her passing, he eventually renewed his zest for life, joined clubs and found a girlfriend. His health challenges have mounted during the last two years, though, and he no longer has the energy to follow up on medical appointments or do much of anything.
My husband and I call him every day and visit three to four times a week. His medical issues can be surmounted, but he can no longer schedule appointments and advocate for himself with our overwhelmed medical community. If we press him on it, he gets defensive. He doesn’t seem to want to talk about his medical problems, and he doesn’t understand the burden he’s placing on his son to medically advocate for him (a role he also held on behalf of his mother as she battled MS).
My husband (age 40) lost the last few years of his mom’s life to a horrible disease. Now he’s losing the last few years of his dad’s life to indifference and depression. Should we keep pushing Dad to get medical attention? Should we keep dragging him to appointments and nagging him about it? Or should we just let him give up? — ROADBLOCK IN MINNESOTA

DEAR ROADBLOCK: It is important that your father-in-law be evaluated not only for depression but also for dementia. His mental ability in the areas of working memory, flexible thinking and self-control — skills he needs to manage his daily life — appears to have become impaired. His doctor needs to be made aware of what’s going on. If you and your husband can confirm the reason this is happening, you may have the solution to your problem.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order “How to Have a Lovely Wedding.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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