My partner’s parents are in their 80s. They are healthy and live independently in another state. My partner wants to move them closer to us in case they need help in the future. The problem: We live in an expensive area, and he can’t afford to buy them a house nearby. So, he wants to convert our home into a duplex. But I don’t want his parents living on top of us! They have no concept of privacy and, worse, a difficult middle-aged daughter who is financially dependent on them and visits for long stretches. Should I offer to contribute financially to a house for his parents that’s a bit farther away from us?
Put away your checkbook. And ask your partner to call off the contractor for now. Trust me: I’ve been the self-appointed savior of an older parent, too! I know your partner is acting out of love (and fear). But his parents are old — not pieces of furniture to be carted from state to state. Your partner should begin this discussion by asking his parents what they would like if they were to need more help.
They may be part of a vibrant community of friends and neighbors who enrich their daily lives. They may prefer to age in place (with appropriate help) or at an assisted-living facility nearby. Their “difficult” daughter might even be part of the eventual solution. And all these options avoid the drastic steps of remodeling homes or buying new ones in a state where their son may be the only person they know.
I don’t minimize the practical or emotional complexities of aging. Your partner’s parents are lucky to have a loving son in their corner. And for all we know, they may want to move — at which point, we can take up your concern. But respecting their autonomy has to be the core of this discussion. They’ve seen a thing or two in their 80-odd years! Let them lead the way for as long as they can.
How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth …
On Father’s Day, I was unpleasantly surprised that I didn’t receive a single card or message: not from my married son, not from my adult daughter who lives with my wife and me, not even from my wife. I think I have good relationships with them, and I always acknowledge their special days. To be honest, my feelings are bruised. Am I making too much of this slight?
Not at all! I’m sorry your feelings are hurt. Occasionally, I hear people grumbling about Mother’s and Father’s Day as made-up, commercial holidays. But most holidays are social conventions. And it’s not as if you’re not trying to score flashy gifts!
Don’t stew. Speak to your family members. I’d do it individually to encourage more thoughtful responses. Tell them their silence on Father’s Day “bruised” you, as you nicely put it. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive cards or messages next year. Still, it’s important to let loved ones know when they delight us — and when they hurt us, too.
From Dog Park to Doghouse (or Worse)
I take my dog to the dog park every morning. One of his playmates there is notoriously aggressive, and the problem has grown worse over time. I’ve talked to the owner about getting more training for his dog after various incidents, but he usually deflects my concern. Today, his dog bit a person’s finger very seriously during a fight. This will trigger an investigation that may result in a fine for the owner, the dog being muzzled or even euthanized if a pattern of aggression is established. I’m afraid the owner will ask me to write a letter of support for the dog. What should I do?
Let’s keep in mind that the owner hasn’t asked for anything yet. If he does ask for a letter, give him a preview of your honest assessment: You watched a dog owner neglect his responsibility to his pet and the community by doing nothing as the dog grew increasingly aggressive. (He may rescind his request.)
I hate to think of animals being punished for their owners’ failures. But you can’t want this dog to continue its aggression, can you? If you’d like to be proactive, explore whether your community has resources for rehousing or rehabilitating dogs with behavioral problems and share your findings with the owner.
A Question of Taste
Since I contracted Covid-19 last year, my taste buds have been dulled. I haven’t shared my condition widely. I went to a dinner with friends recently that featured several homemade dishes. I ate freely but couldn’t taste much, so I didn’t say anything about the food. This will probably happen again. Would it be rude to express my disappointment at being unable to enjoy meals?
As long as you feel comfortable talking about this lingering symptom of Covid-19 — and I hope you will — it’s perfectly appropriate. One of the great benefits of friendship is the opportunity to share our troubles. You may even discover a friend with the same complaint. (If you prefer not to talk about it, though, keep your lack of enjoyment to yourself. Without context, negative statements about meals may come off as criticisms of the cooks.)
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