DEAR AMY: My son-in-law is a physician at a large hospital. He is exceptionally smart and well regarded, but he’s also incredibly dumb at the same time. His errors, goofs and mistakes have gotten so bad that we often think twice before inviting him and my daughter anywhere. He is a one-man debacle. In only the last few months, he’s started a kitchen fire in their house, fallen down the stairs (injuring himself), backed his car out through their closed garage door and flooded his backyard by forgetting to turn the sprinklers off. Over Memorial Day weekend, they came to our lake house. In just three days, he lost his car keys, shattered an antique, burnt an entire meal on the grill and created unnecessary drama by miscommunicating our plans to several other family members. My daughter seems to think his absent-mindedness is charming, but my wife and I do not. He does not drink excessively or have any medical issues. I’ve asked him to please be more careful, and it doesn’t seem to stick. We are planning a family vacation. My wife and I have considered not inviting them, because we want to keep our stress down, but this feels cruel. We love having our big family around us, but I won’t have yet another vacation wrecked because of his foibles. How do I address this?
DEAR WORRIED: You say your son-in-law does not drink excessively or have any medical issues, but how do you know? Have you conducted a neuro exam or tested him for drugs or other intoxicants?
One or even a few of these incidents could be chalked up to stress, exhaustion or absent-mindedness. The picture you paint, however, is alarming. I realize that you find this mainly annoying on your own behalf, but I hope you will speak, and act, out of concern for his health. Tell him (and your daughter) that you are worried because his coordination (and, perhaps, cognition) seems to be getting worse. If he dismisses this, recount some recent incidents, and ask him what conclusion he might draw if a patient came to him with these issues. Urge him to get a thorough checkup.
He could have a serious neurological illness that he manages or masks while he is at work, but which flares when he is outside of his normal routine and surroundings. My understanding of neurological disorders is only anecdotal, but I believe that some of the behavior you describe could be linked to very serious illness.
He could also be drinking, or taking drugs, behind the garage. Your concerns are valid.
DEAR AMY: Many years ago, when I was a teen, I took $20 from my friend. My friend confronted me. I denied it, and we never really spoke about it again. She was my neighbor, and our families were very close. We still keep in touch. I have not seen the friend in many years, but I have seen other family members, and my theft is always on my mind. Of course, I feel foolish admitting that I did this dumb thing. Should I apologize and repay the $20 after all these years, or should I just forget about it?
DEAR WORRIED: If I told you to just forget about this, would you? Haven’t you tried to forget about this theft?
No, you won’t forget about it, so you should own it, admit it, make amends and ask to be understood and forgiven.
I hope you will contact your friend. Tell her that you are embarrassed that you stole from her and then lied about it. Don’t offer up an excuse, but do explain yourself (if you have an explanation).
Your friend’s $20 would be worth close to $50 now. You should send her a check. If you can afford to, you could also donate the same amount to a local charity — perhaps one benefiting wayward teens.
DEAR AMY: I liked your response to “Wanting Romance.” My husband of 27 years doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body. I never get flowers, declarations of adoration or anything like that. What I do get is a man who works extremely hard to make a nice life for us. In the winter, the driveway is cleared and the woodpile is full. In the summer, the gardens are beautiful and the lawn is mowed. If I need anything at all, I just need to ask. That’s what real love is.
DEAR ANNE: It’s a question of changing your perspective.