Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Not as Pretty as a Penny

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: I am a teenager in the northwest. Recently, I contracted a kidney infection that was painful and needed treatment. I didn't know what I had and wasn't familiar with the symptoms, so the only thing I said to my parents was that I didn't feel well. After a few days, it got so bad that I had to go to the emergency room. I was given a prescription and healed, but the hospital bill was $600.

When the bill came, my mother read me the riot act for costing her so much. She told me I should have said something earlier and saved them some money. That was true, and I apologized. But the impression I got is that my health is not worth that much money to her.

I've never had a good relationship with my mother, but this stung. Why would she insinuate such a thing? What should I do? -- Not as Pretty as a Penny

Dear Penny: We don't think your mother meant to imply that your health is not worth $600. Have you ever seen a parent yell at a toddler for running into the street? It's not out of anger. It's because they were worried to death by what might have happened. We think this was your mother's reaction. Your illness turned out to be curable, but it could have been something far worse. Becoming angry at the bill was emotionally safer than facing her fears of losing you altogether. Please forgive her outburst.

Dear Annie: I was married for 47 years to a man who did not want me making friends outside his family. Unfortunately, his family didn't much care for me. I acquiesced to his wishes (pre-women's rights). When he died, I tried volunteering in order to make friends, but I guess I am programmed to push people away. I correspond via email with a few folks, but no one wants to take the friendship further.

I let my son have my house and moved back to my hometown into a retirement place that my son convinced me would be beneficial. But they sold him a bill of goods about the activities here. There are none. No one wants to be friends. They say good morning, but even my invites go unanswered.

I would like to move, but I can't afford it, and no one will help me pack up. People are full of suggestions -- go to the mall, go to church. (I tried that, filled out a visitor card and never heard from them.) I'll be 70 soon, and I feel life isn't worth living if I have to be alone. -- Florida


Dear Florida: You sound terribly depressed, and this may be part of the reason you have trouble making friends. People are attracted to those who are upbeat and energetic, and those traits are difficult for you to display when you feel so low. Talk to your doctor about an antidepressant. Ask someone in charge whether you could help organize a group outing, perhaps to a movie or a play. Do some volunteer work where your help will be appreciated and you can spend time getting to know others and practicing your social skills. You've spent years being "programmed" to push people away. Attracting them won't happen overnight. Consider yourself a work in progress.

Dear Annie: This is in reply to "A Long-Term Care Employee," who admonished families for not bringing new clothing to nursing home residents. There is another factor at play here: dementia.

My mother wears the same clothes over and over. She has new clothes in her closet. She doesn't recognize them and thinks they are someone else's clothes. I have tried to remove the most worn items, but she stands over me and says, "No, I wear that." This perceived problem is not always what it seems to be. -- Kentucky


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2018. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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