Dear Annie: My father died a year ago. Since then, I have ignored my extended family, but I'm close to my children and grandchildren. Christmas passed and I never phoned my sick mother, even though I live 15 minutes away. I want to make it right, but can't just waltz into their lives and say, "Here I am."
My younger sister has been taking care of Mom without a break. I can't stand to be around my older sister, who handles Mom's finances. She is hateful and judgmental, and frankly, she scares me. And then there's my mother. We have a strained relationship. When I was a little girl, my parents would argue and she'd tell my father to leave and take me with him. Only me. My mom always treats my siblings and their children with kid gloves, but my sweet, intelligent kids she treats like lepers.
I want my family to be together like we used to be. If you could print this, maybe my mother and sisters would see it and know that I beg their forgiveness. — Lost in Louisville, Ky.
Dear Louisville: Here's what we see: You resent your mother for the favorable treatment she has always shown your siblings and their children. You dislike your older sister for her overbearing attitude. You feel guilty about your younger sister, who took on the burden of caring for Mom. And you miss Dad, who was the buffer.
Start with your younger sister. Tell her you went into a tailspin when Dad died and you deeply regret abandoning her. Ask what you can do now. Then go see your mother. Phone or email your older sister. You will have to put up with their anger and disappointment, but that will be temporary while you work on forgiveness. You might also consider counseling to work through some of your family issues.
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married more than 30 years, and every year he buys me gifts that don't require much thought. He gets lovely things for our daughter, son-in-law and even co-workers, and I know he puts a lot of time into the selection. But the gifts he gives me always make me want to cry.
Last Christmas, I got a bug suction machine. The year before, it was an
organizer for my spice cabinet. In all fairness, he also gives me a generous gift card to one of my favorite stores, but he knows that I don't get there often and the cards sit in my drawer for months. Plus, it's not really special to get a gift card from my husband, but I am grateful nonetheless.
I dread opening gifts, and my feelings are hurt no matter how much I tell myself it doesn't matter. To me, it's not the size of the gifts; it's whether he was truly thinking of me. So how can I tell him nicely that he'd be doing me a favor by not getting me any more gifts? — Midwest
Dear Midwest: Be sure that's what you want, because if you tell him not to buy you anything, he will stop completely. And has it occurred to you that perhaps his assistant buys the other gifts, but considers yours too personal and leaves it for Mr. Clueless? Talk to your husband about this. Teach him how to be more thoughtful. Explain what you mean. Give him concrete suggestions. But that bug suction machine made our day.
Dear Annie: Gotta Dance says his mom doesn't support his desire to tap dance. She needs to recognize the benefits.
My 13-year-old son has taken dance lessons (tap, hip-hop and musical theater) since kindergarten. It keeps his core muscles in shape when he's not playing football and helps him gain confidence around girls, since he is the only boy in the class. I don't expect it to be his profession, but I hope he continues for as long as he wants. — Proud in Omaha
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. 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.