Dear Annie: My alcoholic sister, "Laura," failed miserably in raising her son, "Sean," who spent his life inflicting misery and mayhem on our family and on society as a whole. He got into trouble in school, earned a long criminal record and abused drugs and alcohol. He was not pleasant to be around and often started fights at family gatherings. When he began threatening to harm all family members, most of us (his aunts, uncles and cousins) had no desire to see him.
But in spite of his antisocial behavior, my 79-year-old mother never turned her back on him, most likely due to her own childhood experiences. My mother put Sean on a pedestal and supported him financially when he was out of work. I cautioned her repeatedly that he would turn on her, as his need for drugs would overpower any semblance of humanity.
Sean recently took his own life by intentionally ingesting contraband he was being arrested for while fighting with police. Since his passing, my mother has shunned family members who failed to express their sorrow and sympathy at his death. She has turned away my niece and her new family because they failed to send her a sympathy card at his passing.
We lived in fear for almost 30 years waiting for this thug to show up at our doors looking for money or drugs, and I can say I am relieved he is gone. How can my mother continue to choose this lowlife over the good, loving, productive survivors? — Don't Want to Lose Her
Dear Don't Want to Lose Her: Sean lived a toxic life. That doesn't make his death less of a tragedy. It's sad that he spent his time on this earth alienating his loved ones. It's sad that he never shook off the shackles of addiction. So I would start there — empathizing with your mother's grief and acknowledging her pain as legitimate, rather than trying to minimize what she's feeling.
Then I would encourage her to attend an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting, so she can address the deep-seated issues that drive her toward enabling and co-dependent behavior. I'd also recommend that you go to a meeting, too. Addiction has touched your life in multiple ways, and it's likely had a bigger impact on your personality than you realize. Visit http://www.al-anon.org or http://www.nar-anon.org for more information.
Dear Annie: I totally disagree with your response to "Heartbroken and Hurt Grandmother" that the fee she was going to pay might have cost her a babysitter. I have children age 12 and 10. Call me old-fashioned, but I encourage them to babysit and mow neighbors' yards for free, at least the first time, to teach them how to be neighborly and good friends. They do not do work for free all the time, but there is more to learn from life than trying to make a buck.
I agree it is good for children to work to make money and learn the value of a dollar, but I believe they need to earn it. If a neighbor or friend is appreciative, then that person will pay my children what they deserve. So many children who grow up and enter the workplace think they are entitled to earning big money without having to do an unpaid internship or start at the bottom and work their way up. — J.B.
Dear J.B.: "Heartbroken and Hurt Grandmother" didn't follow up with the potential babysitter after telling her she'd research the going rates for babysitters these days. I felt that "Heartbroken" dropped the ball by not calling the sitter back. I would never discourage young people from helping out family friends and neighbors — and good on you for instilling generosity in your children — but that wasn't the issue at hand.
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.