Dear Annie: I am a 75-year-old widow with three adult children — two sons and one daughter. They all live within 20 miles of my house, where I live alone. We used to be very close to one another, getting together quite often. Among them I have seven adult grandchildren.
These three adult children slowly, through the years, became estranged from one another, and I don't see anyone as often as I did in earlier years. They have separate lives and do not interact with one another. Nor do the grandchildren. This was so gradual that I don't even realize when it happened. There was no isolated incident.
I lead my own life socially, trying to stay busy without depending on them for "entertainment." I used to be invited to children's birthday parties and holiday celebrations, and I used to host family parties in my own home or in restaurants.
Seeing as they never know what the others are doing, I believe they think another sibling is spending holidays with Mom, and hence, no one is. I need to plan my own "celebrations," which amount to nothing at all.
I would like to move to a warmer climate, but when I mention it to any of them, they say they can't believe that I would want to move away from family. I recently waited three weeks for one of them to stop by, hoping for help changing a ceiling light bulb. This wasn't an actual emergency warranting a call to one of them, but if one of them had just stopped by, I could have made this request.
With my home life as such, should I move to make myself happy? — Undecided
Dear Undecided: There is a saying that families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain the same.
Before you pack your flip-flops and bathing suits for warmer climes (which you are totally entitled to do), you have to talk to all three siblings and find out why they aren't talking to one another. Repair those roots. And absolutely let your children know you've been spending holidays alone.
Once everyone is on better terms, you can plant your palm tree in a sunny place, with the understanding that you will come visit them and that everyone can come vacation with Mom.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Stuck Salesman," who would like to get his college degree but needs to continue working as a car salesman to support his wife and baby. You are absolutely right that going to night school is a great option. But what about working evenings or mornings and going to day school?
When I was 28, I decided to go to college full time while supporting a wife and two kids.
I was told by naysayers I would be 32 by the time I graduated, which was "old." I told them, "If I don't do this, I'm going to be 32 in four years anyway — without a degree."
Yes, it was tough, but with a loving family and the support of my wife, four years later, I walked across the stage, grabbed my diploma and never looked back.
Now, 35 years later, we laugh about not having two nickels to rub together in those days. Entertainment consisted of walks in the park or flying kites. But we had love and hope, and it sounds as if that's what Stuck Salesman has. I just want to reiterate to him: Go for it. — Been There
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Photo credit: Elliott Brown