Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 8:00 pm
Dear Annie: My husband’s only sibling is his 65-year-old brother, “Larry.” Larry’s mother spoiled him rotten. To say he’s lazy is an understatement. He does nothing to help himself. He was fortunate enough to win a local election when he ran unopposed, and he held that office for 30 years. I doubt if he put in 20 hours a month.
Two years ago, Larry retired, drawing a pension and Social Security. He says he can hardly make it. He inherited his mother’s home and land and has done nothing to tend it. He has a few cows, but he doesn’t care for them. They got out onto his neighbor’s land, and they issued a complaint. Now they don’t speak. His mother’s house is falling down around him. He was forced to put on a new roof because the leaking caused the ceilings to fall in. There is no heat or air conditioning in the house. He has not had a working indoor toilet for 20 years. You cannot open the windows because of all the junk in the house.
Years ago, my husband said he’d repair the heater if Larry would clean up the mess around it, but he hasn’t touched a thing. He uses an electric blanket for warmth.
He has no water because when the pipes froze two years ago, he cut off the water to the house and hooked up a hose to an outside faucet. He hasn’t cut his hair since he retired, and he seldom shaves. It makes us sick to look at him.
We have offered to help Larry, but we expect him to put in some effort. He often tells us he should have taken our advice, but whenever we talk to him, he stares and ignores us. I think he’s waiting for someone to take care of him while he sits and smokes his cigarettes. We’re afraid to take on the job of caring for him because then he’d expect us to do it forever. How do we handle this? — The Sister-in-Law
Dear Sister-in-Law: Larry sounds like a hoarder. Along with the lack of personal grooming, it seems more like depression or mental illness than sheer laziness. This may not make it easier to deal with, but it could change your response. Please contact the International OCD Foundation (ocfoundation.org/hoarding) for information and help.
Dear Annie: What is proper etiquette for gift giving and receiving? Is it rude to say, “Don’t buy me presents. I don’t want anybody else picking out my things. Just give me money, and I will do my own shopping”?
That takes all the pleasure out of giving for me, plus it sounds more like extortion. If it is proper etiquette, how much should one give? Society has changed so much in the past 50 years that I no longer know if this is someone raised without manners or if it’s OK to ask for money. — Need To Know
Dear Need: It is still poor manners to tell someone that you expect a present and that they should give you money so you can buy it yourself. You are under no obligation to follow these instructions. If you choose to give money (or any gift), how much you spend is entirely up to you.
Dear Annie: “Florida Greetings” complained about the “high cost” of a postage stamp to justify emailing instead of writing. How petty. With the price of gas around $4, a loaf of bread more than $2 and a gallon of milk at least $3, a mere 45 cents may be the best bargain in town.
Even with a fixed income, I manage to send notes to others who may have a brighter day because they found something other than bills and junk mail in their mailbox. When I can send something to California for less than half a dollar, I am grateful. — Still Writing in Indiana
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. 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 10.17.12