Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 27 years, and I always had a good relationship with my father-in-law. When he divorced for the second time, we offered to let him live rent-free in the guesthouse behind our home.
In the past three years, our feelings for him have disintegrated. Dad does absolutely nothing to earn his keep. When he moved in, we bought him a flat-screen TV, gave him furniture and helped decorate. We haven’t asked for money, and he has never offered to lift a finger. Shouldn’t he at least weed his area, clean out his garage and shovel snow around his door?
Dad is 73 and in good health. We pay for his electricity, satellite TV and Internet. We gave him one of our cars, and it took a year before he started chipping in on the insurance premiums. He would never think to have the oil changed.
The money is not the problem. It’s that Dad is so irresponsible, ungrateful and disrespectful. He walks into my house without knocking and scares me to death. He leaves his cigarette butts in a beer can on my front porch. I have him over for dinner once a week, and he eats like a glutton, devouring all the week’s leftovers. He never reciprocates in any way.
I’m sick of his lazy and thoughtless ways, and so is my husband. My father-in-law is completely self-centered, and it is not lost on me why he is twice divorced. What can I do?
— Finished with Him
Dear Finished: First talk to your husband so the two of you are in agreement about Dad. Then tell Dad what the new rules are and what you expect. We also suggest you lock your doors, put your leftovers in the freezer before he comes over and start charging him rent.
Dear Annie: My parents are compulsive hoarders. They keep everything. They have clothing that hasn’t been worn in 35 years, furniture they no longer use, reference books that are outdated, and stacks of magazines, newspapers and boxes of papers that pose a fire hazard.
I would like to give things away and throw things out, but my hands are tied. I am not allowed to sort through any of their junk, because I might “toss something they need.” But I know they’d never begin to find that “something” amidst all the clutter. They do not realize they have a problem, but it’s driving me crazy. What can I do?
— Going Insane
Dear Going: Your parents may be overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they have accumulated over the years and even embarrassed to have you go through it. Be sympathetic and respectful toward their choices. Ask sweetly whether they would go through just one box with you to see what’s in there that might be worth keeping. If so, you can set aside the things they want, regardless of whether you agree, and get rid of the rest. But if they still refuse or won’t admit that crumbling newspapers can be tossed, try to understand that this type of hoarding is a mental illness and requires professional help. See whether there is a hoarding task force in your area, and also contact the International OCD Foundation (ocfoundation.org) for information and referrals.
Dear Annie: That letter from “Staying Warm in South Dakota” saved me a service call to my heating contractor. I had not changed the batteries in my digital thermostat in a long time. After changing them this afternoon, my gas heater is now working just fine. No problem. Thanks.
— Jesup, Ga.
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.
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