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Picking and choosing among the kids

Dear Annie: I am 73, and my wife is 68. We’ve been married 36 years, and we are healthy, active churchgoers. My wife had two young children when we married, and our son, “Cal,” is now 34. We have helped all three of our kids financially, as well as with babysitting, yard work, etc. And we are frugal, partly so we can leave as much money to the kids as possible. Like many their age, they are busy and financially on the edge despite decent incomes.

Eight years ago, at retirement, we moved across the state to be closer to my stepchildren to help with and be nearer to the grandchildren. They are now three hours away, and although they don’t hesitate to call us to babysit, they only visit us once a year on the holidays. Yet, they enjoy their nearby in-laws on a regular basis.

Last year, Cal moved across the country and married. At that time, his half-siblings were heard saying they “don’t need us anymore,” and in fact, my stepchildren recently suggested we move closer to Cal. While we enjoy Cal and know he would care for us, moving would be a huge expense. Moving closer to the stepchildren would also incur expense, but the main problem with living closer is that we are less comfortable with them. Their lives are too frenetic. We also realize that friends and neighbors in our retirement community are more likely to care for one another.

Should we stop being so concerned with what the children need and want and put our priorities first? Do you think we are overly sensitive about them having the in-law families nearby and therefore not needing us? Should we stop changing our busy schedules when they call to babysit on short notice?

— Pa and Ma

Dear Pa and Ma: If you want to live near the grandchildren, that is a valid reason to move. But please do not plan your future around which child you believe will take care of you. You don’t really know. Plan as if you had only yourself to rely on. Everything else is gravy. But if you want to see your step-grandchildren, we don’t recommend you turn down babysitting jobs if your health allows you to go. We know the favoritism hurts, but being jealous of the other in-laws serves no purpose.

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Dear Annie: Last year, my 92-year-old mother came to live with us. It was a huge adjustment, and we have made many changes in our lifestyle and living space. Mom has been diagnosed with short-term memory loss and mild dementia. She also has some health issues. But she is very sweet and can carry on a coherent conversation.

Recently, some friends spent time with us. The husband insisted that my mother is more aware than my husband and I give her credit for. But he is not here when she forgets to turn the water off, puts aluminum pans in the microwave and cancels her insurance coverage. He wasn’t here when she started a fire.

I want to tell everyone who thinks they know more than the caretakers: You don’t live in the home with the elderly parent and do not know the whole story.

— The Daughter

Dear Daughter: Some people feel an overwhelming need to display their “knowledge,” even when they are ill-informed. It is not as flattering to them as they may believe.

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Dear Annie: As an otolaryngologist, I could not overlook the letter from “Native New Yorker” about a hoarse and gravelly voice. While “Native” did not ask for advice about the voice, I would like to tell readers who have unexplained hoarseness existing for two weeks or more to have their vocal cords examined by an ENT doctor. The problem may be quite correctable, or it may be a sign of cancer of the larynx.

— Illinois Otolaryngologist

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Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], 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.

Special to The Enterprise

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