Dear Annie: My second cousin “Susan” and I are in our 60s and have been friends since childhood. I was widowed six years ago. Susan never married.
Four years ago, Susan and I started traveling together. It’s much cheaper to travel as part of a couple than solo, and we get along well. Now, however, there are a couple of problems. Susan has put on so much weight that she encroaches on my airplane seat and tour bus bench. Airplane seats are not that comfortable to begin with, and Susan takes up a good third of mine. This makes long flights very uncomfortable. I think Susan should pay for a first-class seat or two coach seats.
The other problem is that Susan has taken in several stray dogs and cats, and her clothes reek of cat urine. I no longer want to share a hotel closet when we travel, because my clothes begin to smell like hers.
Susan is already talking about another trip, and I don’t know how to respond. I enjoy traveling, but I cannot deal with these things anymore. Any suggestions?
— Struggling Cousin
Dear Cousin: You have to tell Susan about the cat odor. She is undoubtedly so accustomed to it that she can no longer smell it. Say, “Susan, I’m sure you probably don’t notice it, but your clothes are starting to smell like your cats. Perhaps it would help to change the type of litter you use or put your clothes in a different closet.”
The weight issue, however, is more sensitive. If you are willing to address it directly, gently let Susan know that her size makes travel uncomfortable for you. Consider buying your own first-class, business class or premium economy ticket, and Susan can follow suit or sit elsewhere. Or perhaps you each could share the cost of a third seat so you have extra room. You also could suggest sitting separately on tour buses so that you can meet new friends along the way.
Dear Annie: My dad is in his mid-90s. There is a woman in her early 60s who has worked for him and been a companion of his for about six months. Dad would like to ask this lady to move in with him. This isn’t particularly romantic in nature. The only thing Dad knows about the woman is that she seems to be nice and likes him. She would continue to be his employee and, in addition, would care for him in his own home.
Dad wants us all to get together and discuss this matter. We are concerned about his financial situation and his health. What should we do?
Dear Concerned: Is Dad mentally competent? Have you met this woman? There are lawyers who specialize in elder law and can draw up papers to protect Dad’s assets, regardless of the circumstances. But if the woman is essentially a live-in paid companion and caregiver, it is simply a matter of checking on Dad regularly to see that he is properly cared for.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “At a Loss for Words,” whose mother shows little interest in her daughter’s children. She says her mom “is extremely self-centered.” She wants her mother in her life, but the hurt is getting to be too much.
I agree with most of your advice, but I think she should continue to invite the mother, regardless of whether she attends or not. Narcissistic people crave attention, even negative attention. Not inviting Mom allows her to think of herself as a victim of an ungrateful daughter.
An invitation hurts no one, especially if the grandchildren are taught that Grandma probably won’t attend, and it prevents giving Grandma a way to show her disapproval, cause hurt and be the center of attention.
— N in N.C.
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