Dear Annie: My younger sister, "Nora," is 43 and acts like an 18-year-old brat. She became pregnant nine years ago by a drug addict who is currently in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl. (He is out of the picture, thank goodness.) I love my nephew, "Michael." My older sister and I keep him at our homes most weekends.
The problem is, Nora uses our father like her personal banker. He pays for her rent, all bills and a lot of Michael's necessities. My father can do what he wants with his money — that's not the issue. The issue is Nora's attitude toward him. Lately, my father has been complaining that he feels used by Nora (and he is). But he takes it out on Michael by making comments like, "I'm done with both of you." Michael is hurt.
This week my father yelled again after a snub by Nora, and I can't blame him, but now Nora won't answer her phone, texts or anything. I don't see her car at her house. I don't know where they are, whether she's taking Michael to school, whether she's working, and I'm at my wits' end. She is also ignoring my other sisters.
I'm worried, confused and scared and don't know what to do. Nora knows she can control us because we would do anything for Michael. I don't want to sit back and wait for her to get over it. What can I do? — Sick and Tired of the Drama Queen
Dear Sick and Tired: Can you call Michael's school and Nora's place of business and find out whether they have shown up? If not, you should call the police and report them missing. But if they are simply avoiding you, there isn't much you can do. Nora may be a leech, but that doesn't make her an unfit parent. It also means that if you want to see Michael, you will have to cater to Nora's whims until Michael is old enough to see you on his own.
As aggravating as that is, consider the stable example you are setting for the boy, and do it for his sake. Your father, however, has to stop punishing everyone else for his own choice to give Nora money. Please talk to him about this. He could benefit by venting to a professional.
Dear Annie: My husband and I are in our mid-50s and have an almost perfect relationship, with one exception. We used to travel on our vacations. Now that we are retired, I expected to have both time and money to travel more.
A number of years ago, my husband slowly became anxious about automobile travel. Each year his phobia has become harder for me to handle. He criticizes my driving and everyone else's. It's frustrating. Medications and therapy have failed to alleviate his anxieties.
We have had discussions about this. He says I don't understand and he cannot help how he feels. I feel I am missing out on life. If we cannot resolve this problem, we may be traveling apart forever. Any suggestions? — Traveling Man
Dear Traveling: Would he take a bus? A train? A plane? Traveling by car is not the only way to get around. You also could turn up the radio and tune him out. But please ask him to talk to his doctor again. There may be other things going on.
Dear Annie: I could have written the letter from Frustrated and Furious, whose brother ignores her children's events. I agree with your comment that he probably believes everything is fine, because like many men, he thinks his wife is handling gifts and cards.
It wasn't until my stepmother died that my family members began receiving birthday cards. Dad believed that his wife of nearly 30 years had been taking care of it because she had done it for her own family. — Been There
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. 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.