DEAR AMY: My mother is 63 years old. She just ended a tumultuous three-year relationship with a man who cheated on her, lied to her and stole money from her. This is her first long-term relationship since my father died of complications from Lewy body dementia with Parkinson’s more than six years ago. My mom cared for my dad for almost 10 years and the emotional turmoil nearly ruined her. She just learned that her ex-boyfriend is dying of pancreatic cancer and has six to eight months to live. She is heavy with guilt for leaving him, and is considering caring for him until he passes away. I think she should run for the hills, that she owes him nothing and that his treatment of her doesn’t warrant her caring for him. He should have treated her better when he was well. How can I make her feel better about leaving this man? (Am I a horrible person for feeling this way?)
DEAR PROTECTIVE: Your mother has spent such a high percentage of her life taking care of others that she is probably very good at it. You can understand why she would be drawn to this role now.
On one level, she may feel that because she took care of herself (by leaving), she is being punished, and now must take care of him.
Her guilt is her way of taking responsibility for something (this man’s health) that doesn’t really have anything to do with her.
You might help your mother gain some perspective by noting that this man had other relationships with other women during the time they were together, and so one of his affair partners might choose to step forward now to help him at the end of his life.
No matter what you advise her to do, you need to understand and accept that your mother might choose to take on this role, regardless of what you think. Guilt is a heavy and powerful motivator.
One healthy way for your mother to manage her guilt over this situation (and stay away from him) would be to become a hospice volunteer and help others at their end of life.
DEAR AMY: I adore my future daughter-in-law. She has been great for my son and he for her. After they were engaged my father had a beautiful antique rocking chair restored to give to the couple as an engagement gift. The rocking chair has been in our family for more than 100 years and my future daughter-in-law has admired it. We haven’t given it to them yet. My son and his fiancee just moved to our city and I am shocked at the state of their apartment. I knew my son was sloppy, but his fiancee is just as bad (or worse). I am no stellar housekeeper, but we are talking really dirty and messy! I’m not going to involve myself in their housekeeping issues, but now I am really hesitant to pass this valuable family treasure on to them. I know my daughter and her husband, who already have some of our family antiques, would care for the chair. And I even have a second cousin who would probably care for it. What do you think? Should I give the couple the chair and just let it go, or give it to a family member who I know will care for it?
DEAR WORRIED: As a lover of antiques, I understand your anxiety over this, but you have to ask yourself: Which is more important, the people or the chair?
You set this up as if you are looking for the best steward for this piece of furniture into the next 100 years. If you are, then don’t give it to this couple.
I vote for giving them the chair and then letting it go. They are family members. If your practice is to pass along heirlooms to family members, then they should be included.
You might dodge this by offering them a choice of this chair or a new chair of their own choosing.
DEAR AMY: Your letter from “Big Fan” regarding the sometimes hurtful nature of social media struck a chord. I take a summer vacation from social media and the three months off provides me needed perspective and reminds me that there is life away from my computer! There is more time to devote to activities I enjoy, like walks, cooking and reading. I also find myself reaching out more for real “FaceTime” with friends and family! I highly recommend it.
DEAR ANNE: I completely agree. Thank you.