Dear Annie: I've always known that my niece, "Norma," takes advantage of people, but now I think she's gone too far.
Norma is a single mom who lives in my mother's rental. I recently discovered that she has not paid rent for nearly a year. Norma also convinced my mother to shell out $8,000 to have the yard professionally landscaped. My mother is 82 and doesn't have this kind of money. But Norma has Mom wrapped around her little finger.
This has made me so angry. I work full time from home. I pick up Norma's daughter from day care and watch her for two hours. I do this for free. If I refuse to continue, I assume she will have to pay someone to do it. I'm thinking of telling her "no more," but I worry that she'll get my mother to do it, and Mom can't handle a toddler.
Should I try to force Norma to find an alternative? -- Unwilling Aunt
Dear Aunt: You are under no obligation to continue babysitting for Norma, but it's likely that she will get your mother to take over. Can anyone convince Norma to stop taking advantage of Mom? Is your mother capable of making these financial decisions on her own? You might discuss with Mom the possibility of moving control of her bank accounts to an unbiased third party, perhaps her attorney or financial adviser. Mom might actually appreciate having this taken out of her hands so she cannot be manipulated by Norma or anyone else.
Dear Annie: An old friend of more than 50 years recently died. Despite his bipolar mood swings, I was a good friend to him. But I hadn't seen or heard from him in months and didn't attend his funeral.
I have since received calls from a few of the mourners, some critical about my absence and others curious as to why I wasn't present. I did a great deal for this friend while he was alive, and I feel this compensates for my skipping the funeral. Also, I was present at his mother's funeral nearly 15 years ago in order to be supportive. Should I feel guilty? -- Old Friend
Dear Friend: The point of attending a funeral is to show your respect for the deceased and offer support to family and friends. You chose to visit and support your friend while he was alive, which is a perfectly valid decision, although it does seem as though you were a bit upset with him in recent years. We hope you've managed to forgive him for whatever wrong may have occurred, and that you can forgive yourself for not attending his funeral. In any event, you do not owe others an explanation.
Dear Annie: Like Adopted, I, too, wanted to learn about my birth mother. I was in my early 50s when I located her through a popular ancestry site. My mother encouraged me to write, and preparing myself for the worst-case scenario, I sent a letter, which went to my birth mother's daughter. Her mother was very upset that she had been "found." Her life had been difficult, and she carried many resentments.
She eventually agreed to meet me. We talked for three hours, and she let me hug her and take a photo. There were only a few follow-up emails and one telephone call, telling me of a recurrence of cancer. My last words to her were, "I love you." Three months later, my half-sister phoned to say her mother had passed away.
My half-sisters never knew I existed, and now we stay in touch. They also graciously gave me cherished items that belonged to my birth mother. I encourage Adopted to keep trying to find her birth parents. I have gained so much by doing so. I'm glad I didn't wait, because it would have been too late. -- Glad I Sent the Letter
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.