Dear Annie: My “Uncle Mike” is 82. He has prostate problems and is legally blind and currently recovering from a mild stroke. He takes medication and has physical therapy every week. Uncle Mike never married, but he has three sisters and many grown nieces and nephews, all of whom would do anything for him.
Uncle Mike is extremely depressed about his physical limitations. We try to encourage him, but it’s impossible to cheer him up. Whenever we call or visit, we hear the same complaints over and over. He hates his life, he feels miserable and on and on. He never has a positive thing to say to anyone. We have begged him to seek help for his depression. He says he took an antidepressant for three days 18 months ago but didn’t like the way it made him feel, so he stopped. Since then, he insists nothing can possibly help.
Uncle Mike’s doctor says we cannot force him to seek treatment. Many family members have stopped calling or visiting because he is just too difficult. The Uncle Mike I remember was a kind and loving person. I have not seen that man in a very long time, but I know he’s still in there somewhere. How can I help? — California
Dear California: You are a kind and devoted soul to stick by Uncle Mike, no matter how difficult he makes it. A stroke can change one’s personality and that could be adding to his intractability. Also, his doctor may not have adequately explained that antidepressants can take as long as six weeks to be effective, and that initial side effects can include nausea. Please talk to Uncle Mike and tell him how much you love him and want to make his life better. Ask if you can accompany him to his next appointment and discuss the problem in front of the doctor.
Dear Annie: We visit often with my husband’s brother and his wife. Last night, we were playing cards at their house and my brother-in-law said my husband’s ex-girlfriend was trying to get in touch with him and gave my husband her phone number. I told my husband this upset me and he should have told his brother he wasn’t interested.
I take a lot of verbal abuse from my in-laws. They have nicknamed me “Dumb Dora” and make unkind remarks about my height. (They also mock my new sister-in-law.) My husband insists it’s all in fun and I need to get over the hurt. It seems after 30 years, they still think my husband can do better. I worry they are making him believe it, too. What can I do? — Not So Dumb Dora
Dear Dora: Your in-laws are bullies who feel superior only when they can bring everyone else down to their level. Your husband should stick up for you, but it seems unlikely. Yes, he should have said he wasn’t interested in the phone number or thrown it out. The question is, do you trust your husband enough to let him deal with the ex-girlfriend from more than 30 years ago? If you do, don’t make an issue of the phone number. If you don’t, your marriage is already in trouble.
Dear Annie: Will you please do your adult readers a favor and stop printing letters from children and teens? For heaven’s sake, isn’t anything sacred anymore? We now live in a world where virtually all print and TV media suck up to youth. We adults would prefer to read about adult issues, not whether some third-grader is popular. Enough! — Frustrated in California
Dear Frustrated: We offer advice to anyone who writes. Young people have problems, too, and if you’re not interested in those, there’s always another letter in the column that may work for you. When we were in grade school, we read Ann Landers’ column every day and learned a lot — including not to turn our backs on anyone who needs a shoulder to lean on.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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 on 11.06.07