DR. WALLACE: I'm a 13-year-old guy who was very happy living alone with my mother ever since I was born. Two months ago, my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother came to live in our house. Since the moment she moved in, she has made my life miserable.
Most people love and respect their grandmothers, but I have a problem with mine. She is a nosy lady who has nothing better to do than make up lies about me. She is suspicious of everything I do. She thinks I do drugs — I have never touched them — because I sleep late on the weekends. She calls some of my friends gang members because they have long hair.
Yesterday she accused me of taking some wine out of her private wine stock. I have never had any kind of alcohol in my life. She said that I drank some of her wine and added water to the bottle to make it look like no wine was missing.
Last night at supper, she called me greedy because I took the last piece of meat on the platter. I guess she wanted it, and I would've given it to her if she had asked for it. This made me mad, and I called her a "crazy old lady." This bothered her, and she started crying, left the table, went into her room and shut the door. Now I really feel terrible. I went by her room and told her I was sorry, but she said to "jump in the river and drown yourself." Help! — In a Tough Spot, via email
IN A TOUGH SPOT: It indeed sounds like you're in a very difficult situation which, to resolve, will require as much patience and maturity as you can muster, especially given your young age. But do your very best to be mature and remain calm as you go through this. You're being unfairly picked on by someone who probably has other things eating at her that have nothing to do with you. You're just a convenient target.
Try to be patient with Grandmother and remember that she is a recent widow and has left the comfort of her own home. Just as your life has changed with her arrival in your home, her life is now quite different as well. I trust that with a little time to settle in, she will soon adjust and be a bit less sensitive and combative.
Do take time to calmly tell your mother about what's going on and ask that she initiate a family discussion to find a workable solution. Grandmother needs help with the transition, and it's up to your mother to help her understand she is a guest in the house, and all will need to learn to respect each other as a loving family should.
Meanwhile, try to avoid getting provoked by her rude comments and reacting angrily: This will just escalate the hostility. Don't react — just smile and walk away. Finally, see if you can find something your grandmother is interested in and either give her a small gift (with your mom's help), or simply initiate a discussion with Grandmother on a topic she will enjoy. You need to find a safe, common area of discussion so that you can have positive communications with her, at least some of the time.
AVOID ICE IN MEXICO
DR. WALLACE: I will be spending three weeks in Mexico City this August to become immersed in the Spanish language. I will be residing with a family who has the same religious beliefs my family and I have.
I have been told to drink only bottled water to avoid the bacteria in most Mexican tap water. I was wondering about ice cubes. Does freezing tap water kill the bacteria? — Traveler, via email
TRAVELER: Avoid ice made from tap water. Enough bacteria can survive to cause diarrhea. Using bottled water only, both for drinking and for ice cubes, is advised for travelers while they are visiting Mexico.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.