Dear Annie: I am writing to you with a heavy heart. I have been married to my second wife for 20 years. We dated for two years, and she became impatient with my reluctance to get married. We both wanted kids, but her timetable was different than mine. Even though I was old enough to know better (46), I married her because she got pregnant. I am positive that she did it intentionally.
We are different. I am very clean and organized, and I work hard. She is messy to the point of dirty, stubborn, disorganized, lazy and vindictive. She has tried to sabotage my relationship with our two children who are now in their late teens.
In spite of her efforts, I have created a good relationship with my son. But my younger daughter is another story. She is like her mother: a spoiled brat. I know I am partly responsible for the way she’s turned out. I would like to create a loving relationship before she goes to college in August. I know it’s late to fix this, but do you have any suggestions?
— Getting This Off My Chest
Dear Getting: It’s never too late to try to mend relationships. The first one should be with your wife. You are terribly resentful, and it’s obvious that you don’t actually like her. Although you may have good reason, your children undoubtedly see it and react accordingly. It also fuels your wife’s desire to get back at you. And finally, how you relate to your wife affects how you relate to your daughter, who has a similar personality. She identifies with Mom and may believe you resent and dislike her, as well. Get counseling — alone, with your wife or with your daughter. Whatever you can arrange.
Dear Annie: My 67-year-old mother is an alcoholic. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with dementia. Mom is now on medication for depression and high blood pressure and is living with my sister “Shannon.”
I have seven siblings. When Shannon needs a break, my brothers and I take turns with Mom on the weekends. Mom wanders off during the day while Shannon is at work and catches a ride with strangers to get alcohol. My sister is tired and stressed and says she is fed up because we are not helping her. It’s true that we all could do more, but no one really wants to. Mom is a handful.
Mom is capable of taking care of herself only when she is not drinking. Otherwise, she has outbursts and tantrums. Shannon has decided to place Mom in a facility. Mom is on a low fixed income. Where could she go?
— Worried Sis
Dear Worried: First, take your mother to her physician and have her evaluated to see whether she can manage at an independent senior residence or requires an assisted-living facility. Then call the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116 for information about available places, and take the time to visit those that seem appropriate. Please do not make Shannon do this on her own. Surely, eight children can do this for one mother, no matter how difficult she is.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Drowning in Junk,” whose wife is a hoarder. He asked whether he could toss stuff while she is out of town. You were right to tell him not to do that. “Cleaning out” (throwing everything away without the hoarder’s involvement) can actually exacerbate the problem.
Please ask “Drowning” to reach out to his local police, fire and health departments and ask whether there is a Hoarding Task Force in his area. Hoarding Task Forces are being organized nationwide. Often the task force will offer direct assistance or referrals to resources including cleaners, organizers and mental health organizations. We have a Hording Task Force here that consults all over the state.
— Burlington, Vt.
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