Dear Annie: What should I say to my sister when she makes outrageous claims? For example, she believes the government is spraying poison into the skies and dropping ticks to kill us. She has a huge supply of plastic coffins ready to put our corpses into. She thinks crackpots rapping on YouTube are reliable sources of information.
Sometimes I get through to her with reason and facts, but soon after, she corroborates her misconceptions via other web “sources.” I have too much real life to live to spend time debunking all the links she sends to “prove” her beliefs, but I worry that her paranoia might not be safe if it goes unchecked.
We are both retired, and she spends most of her time on her couch surfing the web on her smart phone and watching movies. She hardly engages in any physical activity, and her health is suffering. She believes every conspiracy theory out there, and when I don’t concur, she thinks I don’t respect her intelligence.
Should I just agree with her? Empathize with her feelings of doom? Laugh off the wacky stuff? Change the subject to real-life issues? Please help. — Older Sister
Dear Older Sister: It is pointless to argue with your sister. Instead, please suggest she get a complete checkup. She may be suffering from something as simple as a urinary tract infection, as serious as dementia or as complicated as mental illness. You also can try your local Department on Aging to see whether someone could visit your sister in person and do an evaluation.
Dear Annie: I need advice on how to tactfully uninvite relatives to a gathering. A few weeks ago, I casually mentioned to my husband that I’d like to have a special outing with our sons. It’s my youngest boy’s birthday, and I suggested an overnight stay at a resort. Along the way, we could stop at my husband’s brother’s house and have a small cake-and-ice-cream celebration with his brother, sister-in-law and young nephew. The next thing I know, he has invited his brother’s family to join us at the resort.
Aside from the fact that I wanted this outing to be just the four of us, there is an additional problem. My older son is autistic. My husband and I will have a hard enough time accommodating his needs while trying to have a good time. And my sister-in-law can be rude. She makes nasty remarks when you disagree with her.
I want this to be our family time. We can invite the others for a different gathering. How should I tell them it will not work out? — Don’t Want To Be Stuck With Them
Dear Don’t: Your husband should handle this. After all, it’s his brother – not to mention, Hubby was the one who invited them without checking with you. He can say he thinks the overnight stay would be best with just the four of you, and he hopes they will understand the need for family time. But he should add that you are all looking forward to seeing them to celebrate your son’s birthday.
Dear Annie: This is for “Concerned,” who questioned the appropriateness of displaying his late wife’s picture at his granddaughter’s wedding.
Not long after we lost our beloved 26-year-old son, two of his good friends were married. Not only did they invite us to the wedding, but by mentioning our son in their wedding program, this wonderful couple made it possible for our son to be part of their special day. There are no words to express how much this meant to us.
We also know a young woman who included her late brother in her wedding by holding his picture in her hands when the wedding photographer photographed the wedding party. How blessed “Concerned” is to have such a sensitive and loving granddaughter. — Always Remembering
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.