Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: On the Outside Looking In

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My wife and I are nearly 90 years old. Five months ago, she had a stroke and has since been residing in a nursing home. We both come from small families. Everyone has visited my wife except for our oldest son.

I called my older son and asked when he was going to see his mother. His response was a tirade, saying, "Who are you to tell me when to visit?" and "You never listen to whatever I tell you," along with, "The others live closer and it takes me six hours to drive there." I told him that I have a lot of things on my mind and cannot listen to his outburst, and then I hung up.

There is public transportation from his city to his mother's location. We've never had a conflict prior to this outburst. Until now, he had been visiting three or four times a year. As a result of our age and health, we have not visited his home for the past few years.

Our younger son is very supportive in helping us and visits frequently. However, he is reluctant to get involved in an altercation between his brother and us. How do we get our son to realize what he is doing to his parents? -- Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: We don't know if there are some issues between your son and your wife, or whether your son simply cannot deal with his mother being in a nursing home. Either way, you cannot force him to visit, even though, obviously, he should. Instead, phone him and say, gently, "I realize how difficult it is for you to come to the nursing home. Whenever you can make it, I know your mother would love to see you, and so would I." That's it. No arguing or pressuring. The rest is up to him.

Dear Annie: My boyfriend has been divorced for 33 years. Still, he and his ex-wife find excuses to continue to communicate about their grown sons.

Recently, I got excited about getting one son a gift for his 35th birthday. My boyfriend said they "don't do gifts around here." So I gave it up. Then I found out that he had gone in on a gift with his ex and another son.


Why do you think he had to lie to me about it? Should I take it as a clue and move on? -- On the Outside Looking In

Dear Outside: First of all, it is normal for divorced parents to communicate about their grown children until the end of time. It is only a problem if one of the ex-partners has designs on the other or if they are overly involved in one another's lives.

Lying about a gift, however, is worrisome. Your boyfriend may have lied because he thought you'd be angry that he made arrangements with his ex, but that doesn't excuse his behavior. It only undermines your trust, making you wonder what other things he may be doing with the ex, and whether he wants to exclude you from his family. These are the things you need to talk to him about. If he won't discuss these issues, or cannot give you satisfactory answers, it's time for counseling or goodbye -- whichever you think will provide a sense of security for you.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




Michael Ramirez The Pajama Diaries Family Circus David M. Hitch Dogs of C-Kennel Bob Englehart