DEAR AMY: Recently, my elderly mother sold her home. She and my disabled younger sister moved in with me and my family to care for them. My older brother, "Randy," has been calling and asking for "his inheritance," citing mounting bills, and being a possible casualty to the government shutdown. Randy owns three houses and two cars. He rents one of his houses and refuses to sell his late wife's car. Amy, my mom is in her twilight years. She has health problems, including progressing dementia. Medicare won't cover everything she may need, but while she still has some of her faculties, she insists that she pay for things like room additions to our house that we've made to accommodate her and my sister. Now Randy wants "his inheritance," and Mom insists that if he gets his, all of her children should have theirs, as well. The way I see it, my mother needs this money for any of her future medical needs, and that the money is HERS until she passes. Am I wrong to want her to keep her money and not distribute it? Should she, with my help, give Randy his "share"?
Trying to Do the Right Thing
DEAR TRYING: In this circumstance, if the bulk of your mother's savings comes from the sale of her home, I don't know how you can accurately determine any individual's inheritance when her expenses are changing and ... hopefully she will be with you for a long (but indeterminate) time. I agree with you that it is risky for her to distribute her money now.
If there is a way for her to safely distribute a modest portion of her savings to each of you (without putting too much stress on the total), that might mollify all parties.
You also might wish to be compensated for your in-home care (and allow for your disabled sister's expenses); you should consult with a professional estate planner to determine what is legal, fair, allowable and taxable.
DEAR AMY: For years, I only drank socially. Then I started drinking privately. Eventually, I drank every day. My drinking interfered with my relationships, my work life and my self-esteem. I was definitely addicted to alcohol. It happened slowly over time, but I feel like I basically lost years of my life to this addiction. My "bottom" was pretty low. I lost my marriage and risked my job. My kids didn't want to have anything to do with me. Through the miracle of a 12-step program, I have reclaimed my sobriety and I continue to fight for it every day. My problem is that I am often undermined in my efforts. There are people who — believe it or not — continue to offer me alcohol, even though they know how much I have struggled. What is that about? How could people be so thoughtless? How should I respond?
DEAR SOBER: First of all, three cheers for you. Your strength and your fight for sobriety are inspiring.
It is a vexing and strange quirk of human nature that sometimes the people who love us the most are so afraid of change that they will cling to a negative past. This happens sometimes when people lose weight and become fit and healthy, or when people go to college later in life to improve their education and job prospects. Loved ones can undermine them, sometimes in very obvious ways. You may have learned about this in your 12-step program, and now you are experiencing it. This is a phenomenon that you should bring up in a meeting, to see how others cope.
Understand that anyone who does this is acting out their own anxieties about how the changes in you will affect them. Don't let them corner you back into your illness. Celebrate your sobriety by being gentle and loving toward yourself and others, but fiercely protective of your health and wellness.
DEAR AMY: I'm getting such a kick out of the various "corrections" to your misuse of the equestrian idiom, which you originally quoted as "jumping at the bit." Some say "chomping," some say "champing." (I personally go with "champing.") But hey — you have a lot of word nerds (like me) who read your column.
Word Nerds Rule
DEAR WORD NERDS: Yes, I make mistakes ("jumping at the bit" was definitely a mistake). But when hundreds of corrections came in — followed by hundreds of corrections to THAT correction — I cheered. It tells me that people are paying close attention.