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ANNIE’S MAILBOX: Express concern without judgment

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By Kathy Mitchell

and Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie: My best friend, “Jamie,” lives five hours away. She and her husband, “Bob,” are both disabled. Jamie has several chronic illnesses that leave her in pain and exhausted most of the time. Bob weighs about 500 pounds and is immobile and bedridden. They have two teenaged children who are also obese.

I recently visited and was appalled to see their living conditions. What used to be messy has devolved into absolute filth — dirty clothes, papers, half-empty soda cans, candy wrappers, dirty dishes and spilled food, topped off with cat urine and feces. I was horrified and disgusted.

Jamie’s husband and children treat her like an indentured servant. Bob has a caregiver during the day, but relies on Jamie at night. And he is impatient and surly. The kids whine for Mommy when they can’t find things, and they claim to be too “exhausted” to lift a finger. The weekend I was there, the kids did nothing but eat, sleep, sulk, whine and play computer games. They are two of the laziest humans I have ever met and are totally self-involved.

Bob and the kids don’t care a wit about wallowing in filth. I have watched them drop food and garbage on the floor and walk away. Jamie has given up trying to clean up after these three little pigs.

I think Jamie’s surroundings are slowly killing her. I realize she is a major enabler, and I don’t want to criticize her when she feels so overwhelmed. But watching their lives disintegrate isn’t an option. What can I do?

Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated: We’re surprised Bob’s caregiver hasn’t called the authorities to report the filth. There’s not much you can do for someone who refuses help. Perhaps you or a group of friends can offer to send over a cleaning service if Jamie is amenable and you can afford it. Beyond that, please talk to her and express your concern without judgment or accusation. Suggest that she look into low-cost counseling for herself so she can develop better coping skills. Tell her to do it for the sake of her children.

Dear Annie: My mother passed away six months ago. The morning of her service, a cousin I hadn’t seen in more than two years decided to tell me what a horrible daughter I was and brought up many things that had happened in the past. Two aunts refused to speak to me. Granted, my mother and I didn’t have the best relationship, but we had taken many steps forward, and things were better.

My relatives live in a small town, and criticizing and gossiping is what they do for fun. Why can’t they let go of the past and look at all the great things my mother and I did in the last several years? I am very hurt that my cousin thought my mother’s funeral was the best time to chew me out.

Still Hurt

Dear Still: If your relatives relish criticizing others, you shouldn’t expect them to be considerate and kind simply because the circumstances seem to require decorum and respect. Ignore them.

Email your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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