Dear Annie: Two years after my mentally ill mother passed away, my retired 76-year-old father, "Juan," started dating a 61-year-old woman, "Lucy." At first, Lucy was friendly to my sister and me, and we hoped we could fill a gap, because she was estranged from her own family and had lost her previous husband in a tragic New Year's Eve accident years prior. She has no children of her own. My family, including my three children, was welcoming. My father is kind and generous to Lucy with trips and gifts, and it's good he has someone who brings that out in him.
But now, as the relationship has progressed, they are shutting us out of their lives. Lucy has caused rifts between us with gossip and talking behind our backs. She persuaded him to buy a house and move away from his network of friends and family. She pushed my father into using my sister's and my trust assets to buy said house, and she doesn't actually live with my father. He's rented her an apartment of her own for three years now. She says she can't move in yet because she's "still cleaning out" her current place. Yet my dad just revised the deed to give her the house upon his passing.
My sister and I question Lucy's intentions, and we're worried she's using my dad. Our small family is now divided in a way I never thought possible. Any suggestions about how to salvage the relationship with my father without causing his girlfriend to further isolate him from my sister and me? — Looking to Bridge the Girlfriend Divide
Dear Looking: Sharks can smell blood from a mile away. Your father has probably been hurting and feeling lonely for a long time. He was vulnerable. I'm not prepared to declare Lucy a shark just based on your letter; it's possible that she truly loves your father and you and she just have your differences. If she's a shark, her fin will surface in time. In the meantime, consult a lawyer to explore any legal options you might have should things with Lucy and your dad escalate. Even more importantly, be as much a part of your dad's life as possible so that he is not isolated. Take him to lunch, or go for walks together. The more he feels connected to family the less dependent he will be on his girlfriend.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Worried Times Two," who were concerned about their potentially unsafe ex-daughter-in-law's having custody of their grandchildren. You may be interested in suggesting that in this situation, their son could ask the judge or magistrate to appoint a special advocate. It would be in the best interest of the children. Court-appointed special guardians can do amazingly thorough investigations and make recommendations to the court. I felt very sad about the situation described and have been involved over the past 24 years as an advocate in similar situations. I would like these children to get the help they need. — Court-Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem
Dear CASA/GAL: I appreciate your bringing such a great resource to my attention. Thank you. Those interested in having an advocate appointed can visit http://www.casaforchildren.org for more information.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected] To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.