Dear Annie: A few years before my father passed away, he and I had a disagreement about the way he treated others in the family. After talking it over with my sister and brother, it was agreed that I would be the best one to stand up to him. I did this on a couple of occasions and felt that Dad and I were making some headway. But not long after, Dad died in his sleep. (He had a lot of health issues.)
My sister and brother both put the blame on me. I made several attempts to get together with them to talk it through, but neither would have anything to do with me. My sister even got legal power of attorney over my mother and kept information about her from me. Then, when my mother died, my siblings decided we should be a family again because it is just the three of us. They now act as if nothing happened.
Unfortunately, I cannot get over the horrible way they treated me. They were similarly unkind to my wife and child, which is the worst part. I went through sorrow, hate, guilt, etc., and finally reached the point where I stopped caring. I see my siblings occasionally, and they want to be friendly, but I am having a hard time accepting this. I feel they owe us an apology, at least one to my wife and child, and I don’t see getting past this until it happens. I’d also like an explanation for their treatment, but I’m pretty sure I won’t get that. Am I wrong? Should I let this go or stand my ground?
— Confused Situation
Dear Confused: Standing your ground won’t help if your siblings don’t know that you are doing it and why. Can you speak to them without becoming angry? Simply say, “You know I love you, and I would like to have the close relationship we once had. But I’m still terribly hurt by the way my family was treated after Dad died, and it’s difficult for me to get past that. An apology would go a long way.”
It’s possible they will apologize. It’s possible they will become defensive or angry and once again blame you. But at least they will know what’s going on and have some understanding of how to repair the damage, even if they choose not to. How to handle it after that is up to you.
Dear Annie: What do you think about a relative who gives you a birthday or Christmas card with an IOU for a certain amount stating, “For whatever you want”? Is the recipient really supposed to pick out something and then call him and say, “How do you plan on paying for my gift?” Wouldn’t a gift card be more appropriate?
— At a Loss
Dear At a Loss: Well, yes, of course. Even writing a check for that amount would be less burdensome. An IOU makes it awkward for the recipient, forcing you to become a bill collector or not “cash in” on the gift. You can ask your relative why he does this. He might not have a checking account or access to the Internet, or he may believe he needs a gift card to a specific store, which could be too much effort. Or it could be a way to ensure that you will contact him again. Regardless, we hope you thank him for thinking of you.
Dear Annie: Like “Gasping for Breath,” I also have asthma, and my husband and every one of my in-laws smoke like chimneys.
I have explained my medical condition, but even my husband refuses to believe his smoking has any effect on me, even with my doctor’s warnings. I finally stopped going to their get-togethers, and my health and peace of mind have improved. Until smokers truly understand that secondhand smoke causes harm to others, they will not admit that their habit is problematic.
— Still Breathing
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.