The Only Visitor
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
My mother was just hospitalized with pneumonia. She is very elderly and she has been in and out of the hospital three times in the past year. I think it’s just a matter of time.
I live two hours away, but I took time off work each time and came down to be by her side while she’s in the hospital. I want her to know someone is there for her.
The problem is, I have two brothers who live right in the same town, and neither one of them has visited her in the hospital, not even one time! When she first went in a year ago, they brought her to the hospital, but then they totally stopped visiting.
I don’t mind coming to visit her, but I don’t understand why my brothers shouldn’t bear more of the load. Don’t they care about their mother’s comfort? Even when she was well, they barely paid attention to her.
For me, it’s a considerable inconvenience to come down to the hospital; it would be a huge weight off my mind if they would keep her company some of the time so I could spend a little more time at home and take less time off.
Is it bad that I want them to take on more of the responsibility? Since I don’t live nearby, maybe I don’t see the big picture.
There are few things in life more stressful than an ailing parent.
You find yourself in this impossible situation where you are both devastated that your mother is so sick, but also aware that it’s probably her time.
Your response to this awful, inevitable situation is to drive in, and try to be by your mother’s side as much as possible.
On the most fundamental level, you’re simply trying to be a good daughter, but it may be that you also feel guilty about being further away in the first place and about acknowledging that she may not have long. (For the record, you shouldn’t feel guilty about either.)
It’s also natural to be annoyed and upset with your brothers. They are leaving you to shoulder the burden of illness, even though it’s easier and more convenient for them to step up for the day-to-day.
Most likely, this is simply their way of trying to cope with your mom’s decline. They’re ignoring the problem so that they can pretend it’s not real.
I don’t like to blindly blame gender bias, but there could be an element of that here. You’re the only daughter, and it often falls to the daughters to do the bulk of the care-taking when a parent is sick.
Your brothers probably aren’t thinking about it in such stark terms, but on some level, they might feel like it’s your job to be there for her.
Of course, they’re wrong. All of her children need to be there for her, and I think you should definitely say something to your brothers.
Yes, you may not know exactly how they treat Mom in your absence, but it seems to me like you’ve painted a pretty clear picture from your frequent visits.
Talk to them, and try to arrange a schedule where your mom sees a loved one every single day, but that loved one isn’t necessarily you.
On a slightly different topic, I think you should also be realistic about whether this illness is the “big one.”
If your mom’s condition declines, it might be better to simply take a leave of absence from work for a bit if possible, rather than trying to go back and forth all the time. Before long, you might find yourself dealing with details of topics like hospice and power of attorney.
While you shouldn’t be the only one handling these difficult issues, your brothers deserve to have you there if the going gets tough. By the same token, you deserve to have them with you now, when your mom needs her kids most.
Wishing your mom a speedy recovery with friends and family at her side,
Money And The Mattress
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
I’m so lost and confused right now.
I’ve been with my fiancé now for about 15 years. We had a lot of up and downs; mostly downs in the first two and a half years we dated.
I ended up pregnant and things settled down and changed. I then got pregnant six months later with our second son.
It took me many, many years to forgive him for those early mistakes, so I pretty much buried it.
Well, recently he opened all these doors back up.
A couple of months ago, we got our income tax return, and we also just bought our house. He spent pretty much all of the tax return.
Earlier, he told me that with the income tax return we can get a new mattress topper. Our bed is newish, but it’s really hard, and I couldn’t sleep on it because I have fibromyalgia.
I told him I want to know where all the money went, and he showed me, but said, “I don’t understand why it’s not all showing up.” So he could only produce evidence of a little bit of the spending.
Now I’m really disgusted over the spending issue. Then, not even two days ago he was rushed to the hospital. He was talking to me, and called me his ex’s name.
I let it go and didn’t say anything about it.
Still, all of this means that I have been really thinking and soul-searching, and I don’t know if I love him anymore. We don’t even sleep in the bed together.
There’s so much here, but I’ve never been so hurt in my life like he has hurt me.
I’m sorry that you find yourself in this difficult position. You seem to feel that your relationship is at an end, and that may be true.
You don’t get into too many specifics in your letter, but it’s clear that you and your fiancé have a painful history.
Without knowing exactly what he did to you in the early years of your relationship, it seems quite clear that you have never really forgiven him for it. As you put it, you just “buried” the feelings.
I don’t know whether the man in your life deserved your forgiveness or not, but what is very apparent is that he is still paying for his sins in one way or another.
He has also created new problems, notably by spending your whole tax return and not explaining where all the money went.
To me, that speaks to deep and abiding trust issues on the relationship.
There’s no way he doesn’t remember what he spent the money on, and there’s no way that your bank account somehow lost the spending records.
He’s being dishonest about something, and I have a hunch that links back to his earlier bad behavior.
So what we have here is an unknown crime that you have not been able to forgive in 15 years, mysteriously disappearing money, and your own self-proclaimed feeling that you don’t love him anymore.
I can’t make the choice for you, but it seems like your relationship is reaching its natural end.
If you’re only staying together for the kids, maybe it’s time to trust that the kids can sense the tension, and will be just as happy as you to see their parents make the healthy decision to split amicably.
Best of luck!
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
I am a little nervous. I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years and since before he met me, I’ve had a few health issues.
Since we’ve been together it’s been downhill; my problems have gotten worse.
Just recently, I went to a stomach specialist and he had to take samples out of my stomach. He is checking them for many things, and he also suspects I might have cancer. He is checking to see if the cells have changed.
My boyfriend has told me that, no matter how bad it gets, he is there for me. I am just afraid it might get too bad for him.
On top of that, my bipolar disorder is getting bad. I go to the doctor when I am supposed to, but I think everything going on is what is making it bad.
I am just afraid that it’s going to get bad. He’s been there every step of the way so far, but he is scared for me too. Do you think it might get to be too much for him?
It’s always tough to learn that you’re going through a medical setback, and it’s easy to let your worries take over.
My advice to you? Don’t borrow trouble.
You don’t yet know what diagnosis (if any) your doctor will give you. Try not to stress yourself out jumping to all of the worst possible conclusions if you can.
However, this is a good time to see if your doctor can address medical issues to which you know the details.
You mention your bipolar condition and worsening symptoms. Maybe you need to explain to your doctor or psychiatrist that you’re having trouble. It might be a sign you need to rebalance any medications or find additional therapies to help you.
Now, on to your biggest concern: that your medical woes will drive your boyfriend away.
You boyfriend has told you time and again that he’ll be by your side throughout everything. If you love him, you need to trust that he is telling you the truth.
Has he ever let you down in a high-pressure moment? Has he ever said something he didn’t mean just to keep from ruffling your feathers?
If the answer to both of those questions is “no,” then it’s time to take him at his word and believe what he tells you.
I think you have a good one, and that you can probably count on him to stick by you, no matter what comes next.
Warmest wishes for your health and happiness,
Talking Out Hard Truths
Laura Caseley for LittleThings
I have two kids, a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. They are the light of my life, and I have maybe been a tad overprotective of them.
I’ve given them the sex talk, and we’ve also discussed drugs and drinking a little bit, but I’ve never gone into that much detail beyond “Don’t do it.”
Then, last week, an older kid in their school system was hospitalized for a drug overdose.
Heroin has become a big problem in our area, but I hadn’t heard of any kids in the school system using it until now.
He survived, thank God, but it raised a lot of questions for my kids, especially my daughter.
I think I need to have a much more frank conversation with my kids about drug use and how to stay safe, but I don’t know how to start.
I’m worried I have maybe babied them too much, and they aren’t ready to hear about the harsh realities of drug use. I’m afraid of scaring them, but they need to understand.
How do I deal with this appropriately?
Thanks, Worried Mom
Dear Worried Mom,
You are right to be concerned. As a country, we are living through a heroin epidemic that rivals the notorious drug crises of the ’70s and ’80s, and it’s important to give your kids enough knowledge to keep them safe.
It sounds like you have already made a good start by having the basic conversation: illegal drugs are dangerous, so do not use them.
However, you’re absolutely right in noting that it might be time to have a more explicit conversation with both of your kids, though it might be a good idea to talk to them separately.
There are only three years between them, but those three years are critical in terms of maturity.
Your 15-year-old is definitely ready for a more grown-up understanding of a very scary topic. I think you should sit her down and be very, very honest about what happened.
Answer any questions she has as honestly as you can, and make sure she knows she can come to you with any worries. You also shouldn’t shelter her from the fact that a a not-much-older kid almost died, and emphasize that heroin and other opioids are powerfully addictive, and can kill easily.
Your 12-year-old might not need quite as much information about the older student’s near-miss with an overdose death.
That said, it’s better that he learns what happened from you than from rumors flying around the school. I think you can give him fewer details about what exactly happened, but also emphasize that you’re here for him, and will answer his questions honestly.
It’s a shame that parents have to have these conversations with their children in the first place, but I think you can take comfort in one fundamental truth: kids are incredibly resilient.
As to your worry that your kids won’t be ready to hear the truth, I wouldn’t stress. Even the most sheltered teens and preteens usually put together a surprisingly comprehensive picture from TV and friends, without their parents ever saying a word.
I think your role will be less to explain that people use drugs, and more to clear up any misconceptions they may have picked up from peers.
It seems scary now, but remember, your kids will get through this just fine with you there to guide them!
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