Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My parents divorced when I was very young. My brother and I were raised by our hardworking mom without any financial support from our dad. We are now in our 20s, have gone to college and are working at successful careers. I am married. Dad has always been a freeloader. He’s never had a steady job and relies on women to house and support him. His lifestyle includes drinking and drug addiction. As adults we have tried to help him through the years, but without any success. Because we have been repeatedly taken advantage of, we have learned to accept him for who he is and not to expect anything from him. Recently, my wife left the country to be with her family. She will be gone for three months. As soon as she left, my father asked if he could stay with me for a few days. It’s now been several weeks of housing and feeding him, and when I’ve asked him when he’s planning on leaving, he doesn’t answer. I have a very small apartment. He sleeps on my couch. I know he has nowhere else to go. He’s burned all of his bridges with his side of the family. I’m afraid he will be homeless if I kick him out. The little money he has seems to be spent on prescription drugs. I am very unhappy but don’t know how to ask him to leave. I feel guilty for not supporting him, but I also feel like I am enabling his behavior of never taking responsibility for himself. Is there any nice way of getting through to him?

A Sad Son

DEAR SON: Because your wife is returning on a specific date, you have a ticking clock.

Don’t ask him when he is planning to leave, because he is not planning to leave. Give him a specific date by which he needs to be out.

Tell him, “My wife is returning on the 20th and you need to be out then, so you’ll need to find somewhere else to stay.”

You could research low-income housing options for seniors (if he qualifies). You could attempt to hook him up with a social worker where his addiction issues might be dealt with. Staying with you is not an option, and so don’t offer him this option.

Freeloading people have a way of landing on their feet — or on someone’s couch, but don’t expect him to make a move until he has to.

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DEAR AMY: My husband died very suddenly five years ago. A few weeks later, my father died. In the past couple years, my dear mother-in-law and father-in-law died and my mom died after a lengthy illness. Shortly after the death of her father, my stepdaughter totally separated herself and her children from me and all of her aunts and uncles. I have dear friends who have been very supportive, but for a variety of reasons, my closest friends now reside in other states. Now I am in a new neighborhood and trying to get to know new people and make new friendships. But I am struggling with how to respond to the usual questions that are so typical when meeting someone new: “Are you married? Do you have children? Grandchildren?” I’ve tried briefly sharing the truth and people probe with more questions that I don’t want to answer because it is still painful. I’ve tried lying (“no, I don’t have any children or grandchildren”). But how can you start a friendship with a lie? I was very happy for 30 years. My past five years have been awful, but I don’t want the grief to define the rest of my life.

Trying

DEAR TRYING: First, I hope you will get some actual support to cope with your extreme losses and grief. Connect with the local hospice center in your town; a grief support group will be transformative for you, partly because you will be surrounded by others who are traveling their own grief journey.

I vote for the simple truth when meeting new people: “My husband died five years ago. My stepdaughter drifted away after that. I’m still working out how to manage a relationship with her and our grandchildren.”

If people probe, you can say, “It’s complicated, and maybe I can be more open when we know one another better.”

My hope for you is that you will meet someone who looks you in the eye and says, simply, “I’m so sorry.”

DEAR AMY: “Feeling Like an Outlaw” described how the last time her family stood up to her father-in-law, he didn’t speak to them for six years. Now she is worried about hosting the holidays. From what I read in her letter, her holiday problem will be solved if she just stands up to the old man. Then she will have six years of holiday dinners she won’t have to host.

Fan

DEAR FAN: Bam!