Posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: Three years ago, my father had a big fight with his sister, my “Aunt Joan.” Aunt Joan did some things that were truly selfish and hurtful, and all of the family agrees that her actions were inexcusable. She has since cut off all contact with the family.
The problem is, my father continues to stew over the incident. Every time we see him, he talks about it. He has developed an ulcer and high blood pressure. He will not be satisfied until my aunt admits she was in the wrong and apologizes. But no one believes that will ever happen.
We want our father to let it go before he stresses himself into a stroke. Aunt Joan is out of our lives and can do no further harm. But as long as he obsesses over the argument, he is still letting her ruin his life and his health. How can I help Dad leave this behind and find some peace? He reads your column faithfully, so your words will mean a lot to him. — Sensitive Soul in Canada
Dear Canada: Part of the problem may be that your father still loves his sister and wants a reconciliation, but knows it can’t happen until Joan changes her ways, which doesn’t seem likely. He’s angry and frustrated — and hurt. He needs to accept Joan as she is, which means the situation is not his fault and he cannot fix it. Sad as it is, he needs to make a conscious effort to let this go, and it might help to talk about it with someone who can be sympathetic without riling him up.
Dear Annie: My husband and I have three daughters, and we also are foster parents. This will be the first Christmas that we will have foster children in our home during the holidays.
What is the etiquette for Christmas cards? Do I sign only the names of my immediate family, or do I include the names of the foster children? Should I mention them and their doings in our Christmas letter?
Both sets of grandparents are filing to adopt them, so it is highly unlikely that we will have them permanently, and this will be the only Christmas they will be with us. I am not sure what is appropriate. — Oregon Foster Mom
Dear Oregon: We commend you for taking these children into your home. Please include their names on your holiday cards, and by all means, mention them in your newsletter. It will not only make the children feel part of the family’s achievements and activities during this time, but it will also explain the extra names on the Christmas cards.
Dear Annie: I have another angle on your answer to “Too Late To Care,” who wasn’t inclined to visit her dying sister.
I am a hospice chaplain. At the end of life, people often see the need for reconciliation with estranged family members or friends. I have seen many cases where the opportunity to hear a few words from a dying person has made all the difference in the lives of those left behind. One woman, estranged from her father for 30 years, told me, “He finally said the words I had hoped for all my life.”
It is not just about the person who is dying. When people ask me whether they should come to the bedside of someone they have not wanted to see for years, I ask them what they are hoping for and how it would help them. There are no guarantees, but there can be healing.
Dr. Ira Byock states that the four things that matter most are the words: “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.” People should not wait until someone is dying to say those words. And it is also important not to wait until someone’s last days, when he or she might not be able to communicate anymore. — N.H.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.3.10