Dear Annie: I have been married to “Nancy” for 51 years. The day of our wedding, I was 167 pounds with a full head of hair. Now I am 181 pounds and bald. Nancy was always a Rubens type, which was fine with me. After giving birth to our first child, she lost more than 20 pounds, and even her father was impressed. However, two more children followed, and her weight went up to what it was before.
Now, at age 75, she is obese. She has trouble with her ankles and can barely move. She refuses to use a cane or a walker. We constantly argue. She is beginning to look ugly to me. I want to leave, but I can’t because she cannot live alone.
I am depressed. If I die before she does, she will be on her own because our children work, are struggling financially and have their own kids to raise. They have spoken to their mother about the possibility of a retirement home, and she says, “Absolutely not.” What can I do?
— West Valley
Dear West: Some of this is not within your control — your wife’s weight and what happens after you die. It is selfish of her to put this type of burden on her children, so you might want to discuss it directly with them, making contingency plans in case she should outlive you. There are alternatives to retirement homes, including in-home care or one of the children taking Mom in. You, however, are stressed over this and having a rough time. Please talk to your doctor about it.
Dear Annie: My mother-in-law is not a true hoarder, but she’s definitely a packrat. Her house has drawers, cabinets and boxes filled with unfinished craft pieces, papers so old you can’t read the faded print, moldy magazines, dried paint, cracked pottery, broken candy dishes and junk tucked into nooks and crannies so deep no one has seen the contents in years.
She is the only one who knows where anything important might be “filed.” She is widowed and retired and has the time and the physical ability to go through this stuff. Her two children help with yard work and home improvement, but they don’t have time to pick through her collections.
My mother-in-law is not depressed. She’s just lazy and has poor organizational skills. She spends too much time watching TV and emailing. I am hoping she might recognize herself in your column. How can I convince her to de-clutter before it’s too late?
— Don’t Want To Pick Through the Weeds
Dear Don’t: If Mom has poor organizational skills, the idea of going through her vast collection of miscellany is both overwhelming and paralyzing. She needs someone to assist her, one drawer at a time, perhaps once a week, to make it manageable. You could offer to do this or suggest it to another family member. Or hire a professional organizer. And it’s possible that Mom’s church or other community organization has volunteers who might help out.
Dear Annie: This is for “Devastated Daughter,” whose father died suddenly. Now she is conflicted about going away to college, because she worries about leaving her mother alone. I agree with your advice that she should go as planned. Here’s my message to her:
Dear Daughter: Your concern for your mother is a beautiful testament to your relationship. She is concerned for you, too. The best gift you could give her is to follow your dreams, live according to the values you have learned from a loving family and succeed as an independent young woman. Yes, she may occasionally break down. But she will go on, and it will be much easier if she knows you are OK.
— Thinking of You in the South
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.
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