Dear Annie: I have a 75-year-old friend who was brutally beaten by an intruder. “Jim” allowed the stranger to enter his home when he claimed he needed to use the telephone. Jim suffered broken bones and a head trauma and spent time in a rehab facility. He still hasn’t fully recovered and is mostly confined to bed.
Jim has no close family. He abandoned his wife 38 years ago, and his daughter met him for the first time in October. She is his next of kin, and when Jim was in a coma, she had to make some tough decisions about his care. She is not able to be involved as much now because she lives far away. I’m in touch with her often, so she is aware of her father’s condition and says he is capable of making informed decisions. The police concur.
Jim is alone, depressed and alcoholic. I check on him daily. He’s promised not to kill himself, but he has given up on living. He has very little energy and barely eats despite the fact that food is provided. He just wants to lie in bed, smoke and drink vodka. And that’s my problem.
I have been meeting his requests for alcohol, but I feel guilty about it. I don’t want to contribute to his death by facilitating his drinking, but I fear that depriving him only condemns him to an even more protracted demise. Jim refuses to be hospitalized or return to rehab, because he will not be allowed to smoke or drink, and he wants to die at home.
If Jim is to recover, he needs to stop drinking, eat well and exercise, and it would be such a long and arduous road that he does not believe he can do it. Am I right to make him comfortable? Is this compassion or wrongdoing? — His Friend
Dear Friend: We’re going to side with compassion, but please know what you are getting into. While Jim may tell you he is not suicidal, he is doing exactly that by a slower route. You cannot force him to choose life, but you don’t want to be overcome with guilt and remorse, either. (And frankly, drinking and smoking in bed is a fire waiting to happen.)
Dear Annie: Every gathering of my husband’s family means my mother-in-law has to control the day, the conversation, everything. It sucks the life out of me. Not once does she listen to anyone else or ask how they are. She never inquires whether I’m OK. There is never a sincere two-sided conversation. Somehow, everything reverts back to her and her need for attention. She does not get along with her in-laws and refuses to visit them. My father-in-law sees his side of the family on his own.
All I can say to every person considering marriage is: Open your eyes. If I had recognized this pattern earlier, as much as I love my husband, I wouldn’t have married into this family. — Glad the Holidays Are Over
Dear Glad: We understand that she is difficult, but we feel sorry for your mother-in-law. She has no idea how to make friends or get people to like her. She must be a terribly unhappy person.
Dear Annie: You were dead wrong in your response to “N.,” who asked about helping his mother financially once her money runs out. He is under no obligation to support his mother after Mom blew through all of the money her husband left. This child has worked hard his whole life and owes his mother nothing. I would not pay that lady a dime. Mom chose to spend stupidly, and so now she has to live with that. He needs to just tell her, “Sorry, Mom, I am not a bank!” — Cathy in Michigan
Dear Cathy: “N.” did not ask whether to give money to Mom, only that he wanted to provide for her, within reason. Setting up a limited monthly allowance (and no additional funds) would work and would be a kindness.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.