Dear Annie: I am a 57-year-old man with no siblings, and my mother is deceased. My 82-year-old father is physically healthy, but he’s in the early stages of dementia. He has a few hobbies to keep him busy, but for some reason, he has become obsessed with me.
Dad has become rather “needy.” Sometimes he calls me three or four times a day, even when I am at work. He insists that I go to his house every day, even if there is no particular reason.
I know Dad is probably lonely, but still. He doesn’t have a lot of friends due to his attitude and sharp tongue. He has become demanding, insisting I do things immediately rather than when I have time. He also has grown very mean-mouthed and pouts if he doesn’t get his way.
This is getting to me and putting a strain on my family. What do you suggest?
— Crazy in Kansas
Dear Kansas: We think Dad is frightened. He knows he is slipping and finds reassurance in your constant presence. Dementia also can affect his personality. Call and visit him when you can. When you don’t have time to run errands, calmly and repeatedly say that you will get to them on the weekend (or whenever), and follow through. Ignore the rants. We also suggest you go with him to his next doctor’s appointment and discuss your concerns. And please contact the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) for information on resources and assistance, because this is likely to get more difficult for you over the next several years.
Dear Annie: I am married to a wonderful woman who is generous and helpful. We are both retired, in good health and live comfortably. We are currently babysitting two of our grandchildren five days a week, nine months out of the year. We love our grandchildren, but I feel this is too much.
The problem is, when I talk to my wife about doing less so we could take the winter off and spend it in a warmer climate, she refuses. I want to enjoy my retirement. Winters here are depressing and limit our physical activities. I don’t feel it would be right for me to travel by myself or spend time in a warmer and more enjoyable place while she stays home and babysits.
How can I get her to realize that the years slip by, and that if we don’t enjoy ourselves now, it may be too late when the grandkids no longer need us to babysit?
— Richard in New England
Dear Richard: It’s possible your idea of a wonderful retirement is not the same as your wife’s. She may enjoy being around her grandchildren and want to be close to them (and of assistance to your children) as long as she is capable of doing so. Since you have three months “off,” begin by planning some special trips during that time. When winter comes, use your weekends or school vacations to get away. You might even take the grandchildren on longer trips if they are old enough and you can afford it. If you approach this in the spirit of compromise, perhaps your wife will listen and even offer some suggestions of her own.
Dear Annie: This is in reply to the widow in Florida who complained that she is unable to make new friends.
I suggest she find a local animal shelter where she can volunteer her time. Most shelters welcome volunteers, especially during the week. Whether or not she makes new human friends, the animals she works with will appreciate the time she spends with them and will display a love and loyalty she will treasure forever.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to email@example.com, 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.
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