Dear Annie: I am a caregiver. There are millions of us dispensing love 24 hours a day for weeks, months, even years to incapacitated family members. We have no sick days or vacation days. Sleep is a thing of the past. If we are not caring for loved ones, we are worrying about which bills to pay.
Many of us will have a shortened life span because of the toll such care requires. Friends and family fled long ago. Our phones are silent, and no one comes to the door. We have conversations mainly with ourselves. We live in a parallel universe where we are invisible to the outside world except for the medical staff who hold our hands through this journey.
November is National Caregivers Month. If you have a friend or acquaintance who is a caregiver, please go by their home and give them a hug. If you are a family member, show up. We know how hard it is to watch your loved one disintegrate, but by giving them attention, you may ease our burden for a few minutes. Serving others is a humbling experience. The process hones character, develops empathy and stops all judgment of others.
Death and dying come to all of us. By sharing our experience, you ready yourself for yours to come. — A Kansas Caregiver
Dear Kansas: Your letter arrived too late for November, but it is never too late to remind people to care for the caregivers. Caregiving is a difficult, often thankless responsibility. It is a full-time, unpaid, volunteer job. It requires tremendous patience and love and a large dose of strength — both emotional and physical.
It's the holiday season, folks, and a good time to think of others. If you know someone who is a caregiver, please call or stop by and offer support. Ask whether you can run an errand, buy groceries, bring dinner or simply sit with them. If it is a family member caring for your loved ones, please appreciate this sacrifice and understand that they are also doing this for you. Step up and do your part.
Dear Annie: My sister and I were not blessed with children, but our two brothers have kids. Over the years, we've given those kids many gifts, some quite generous. Most were never acknowledged. Over time, my sister and I stopped sending gifts. This year I tried again: hand-knit hats and mittens to great nephews. There has been no word of thanks, either by mail, email or phone call. Silence.
I examined my motives this Christmas to ask what need I am trying to have met. I would like to be thanked. I would like to be thought of fondly. I would love school pictures. I would like to have someone to name in my will.
It hurts to be ignored and to know that my brothers and their children are so woefully lacking in good manners and apparently have no affection for me. — Sister, Aunt and Great-Aunt
Dear S, A and G-A: You are doing nothing wrong. Not acknowledging receipt of a gift is rude, inconsiderate and thoughtless. We don't care whether they like the gift or want another. They should say they received what you sent and appreciate your kindness.
Phone or text your nieces and nephews and ask whether their children received your gifts. Tell them what you told us — that you simply want to be thought of fondly and you'd love to see pictures of the little ones. (If you mention your will, you might find they are suddenly more solicitous, but that's up to you.)
Dear Annie: "Proud Grandma" asked for a response that would get childless people to stop criticizing the parenting styles and children of others. This has worked for me: "I, too, was the perfect parent before I had children." Repeat as necessary. — M from Vermont
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.