Dear Amy: My family and I (husband and two teens) live with my very elderly parents. I purchased the house from the trust after my parents proposed the idea.
This benefits my parents – they can stay in the house and receive our help. My teens benefit from living with them. This is a win-win.
I have a third child in his 30s, who is not living with us.
My son has a long history of incarcerations and has two felonies for theft and drug offenses.
He has been out of prison for over a year. He lives with friends and at times with his father (my ex). He’s not exactly the model citizen, but is keeping out of trouble.
He has his mail sent to our house.
Whenever he stops over to get it, my mother becomes really nervous, anxious, and fearful. She won’t hug him, make eye contact or converse.
She has not forgiven him for stealing grandpa’s credit card and cash from them when he was a teen.
She has basically disowned him for his failures, and I’m guessing she’s embarrassed by him, too.
They were really close when he was a child.
As far as I’m concerned, he’s done his time, he is family, and he shouldn’t be disowned.
Grandma recently told him (when I was in the other room) that he can’t stop at the house anymore.
I like to see him occasionally and am not afraid of him stealing. He is not dangerous.
– Forgiving Mom
Dear Mom: Your son may have paid his debt to society, but his reconciliation should happen at home.
You could start by encouraging him to make amends.
Has he sincerely acknowledged and apologized for his actions? Asked for forgiveness? Recognized how he violated his grandparents’ trust? Attempted to repay them?
If not, he should.
He might do this in a letter, carefully written and sent to your folks.
He might say: “Grandma, I know I hurt you and Granddad. I’m so sorry. I hope you can forgive me. I’m a different person now, and I’m working hard to live a good life. You can help me by talking to me and by continuing to be a good example. I miss you!”
Be gentle with your mother. Ask her to describe her feelings about this, and patiently reassure her. Ask her, “What could he do to make you feel more comfortable?”
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Dear Amy: My mom had a series of devastating strokes 17 years ago. Since then, she has been in and out of nursing homes and hospitals. My dad has severe arthritis in his knees and is awaiting surgery.
My brother and his wife are heavy drinkers. I try to avoid their obnoxious drunken shenanigans.
My brother has basically written all of us off. He initiates no contact with any of us on the false premise that we have abandoned him.
When I contacted him about mom’s new nursing home and gave an update on our dad, my brother said he doesn’t care anymore and abruptly ended the conversation.
My sister and I, along with our husbands, have been doing the heavy lifting regarding our parents’ home maintenance and our father’s care.
Not once has our brother offered to help. He also deleted all of us on his social media. His wife posts passive-aggressive comments. (I have since deleted her from my own “friends” list.)
Should I continue to try and give my brother updates, or should I just write him off – as he has done with us?
As their son, I still feel like he has a right to know what’s going on with his parents.
– Dutiful Daughter
Dear Dutiful: Yes, your brother does have a “right” to know about his parents.
But with rights, come responsibilities.
His behavior runs in something of a vicious cycle. Because he is not helpful, he must also reject you. Because he rejects you, he can justify not being helpful.
To satisfy your own concerns, you should email him: “You don’t seem to want to hear from me, but do you want to receive occasional health updates about our parents? I’ll respect your decision; just let me know.”
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Dear Amy: A recent letter from “Marley” made my blood boil. Marley’s brother seemed to be constantly bullying her throughout life.
Why don’t you ever suggest that people just completely cut things off?
Dear Upset: “Marley” was already doing a good job of evading and avoiding. A total break could be next.
©2022 Amy Dickinson.