Dear Annie: My husband, children and I are caring for my widowed father, who is in the late stages of dementia. I consider it a privilege and a responsibility to care for him at home, and am happy to do so for as long as I am able. I attend support groups, and my family and friends ensure that I "escape" from time to time.
The difficulty is with my sister and her three children, who live many states away, and who use their distance, their busy lives and their dysfunction as reasons to ignore Dad. Because phone calls are difficult for him, I have asked Sis several times to send a letter, postcard or e-mail with her picture attached, but she won't. Dad lives to go to the mailbox. Getting a personal letter makes his day, and he happily reads it over and over. Reading also is good stimulation for his brain.
Please don't suggest I "create" letters and pretend they are from her. I also will not give my sister care packages of stamps and pre-addressed envelopes to make it easier. I am a full-time caregiver and have enough on my plate.
My parents helped all their grandchildren with college tuition and bailed my sister out financially many times with no repayment of her debt (that's a whole other story). They created a small but comfortable estate which all of us will inherit.
I want to tell my sister how her neglect is affecting my feelings toward her, but friends say I'd be wasting my time. I sadly foresee cutting off contact with my only sibling due to this issue, and because frankly, the only time I hear from her anymore is when she needs financial assistance. Any ideas? — Frustrated West Coaster Dear Frustrated: You cannot make your sister a better daughter or a more considerate sibling. She is who she is.
If it will make you feel better to air your feelings, we suggest an e-mail or letter saying only how much it saddens you that Sis does not maintain closer contact with her ailing father, and you hope she will not have regrets later. Don't become angry or accusatory, and don't expect too much. You are not responsible for your sister's attitude, nor can you fix it. Sometimes you simply have to accept what is.
Dear Annie: There is a growing trend in the church my husband and I attend. In the past year, three young couples were married in the church. All of them are friends of my children and quite close to me. Either the parents or the couples found it sufficient to put an open invitation to their ceremony in the church bulletin. One even requested donations be made to help support their honeymoon.
I realize people have to cut corners, but this struck me as so impersonal that I declined to go. My daughter will be getting married soon, and we will be going to the extra expense of mailing wedding invitations to assure the guests that each one is truly wanted. Am I outdated at the ripe old age of 40? — Miffed in Michigan
Dear Miffed: Hardly. These "invitations" are the equivalent of newspaper announcements. They let you know a wedding is taking place, but you are under no obligation to respond or send a gift.
Some bridal couples mistakenly believe such an invitation lets more people "share their joy." In reality, it puts close friends on the same level as strangers, which can be both insulting and hurtful.
Dear Annie: This is for "Rocky," who joked that the reason Adam lived a long time was because he didn't have a mother-in-law.
I'd like to point out that Methuselah lived to be 969 — that's 39 more years than Adam — and he DID have a mother-in-law. — A Happy Mother-In-Law
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.