Dear Annie: Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, my husband was hospitalized at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. We live 250 miles from the hospital and spent the week with friends nearby. We visited my husband daily and did the same a few months later when he needed a second surgery.
While there, I observed that the vast majority of patients had absolutely no visitors. I asked the nurse if this was a fluke because of the holidays, and she sadly told me my husband was among the rare ones who had people come by.
As we left, I made a point of saying something encouraging to each patient I saw. While I waited for my husband’s second trip to the hospital, I spent time thinking of small things I could do to make their time there less lonely. The staff at the VA is wonderful. Not only do they provide great care, but they do it with a smile. Everyone we passed said hello, including members of the supervisory, housekeeping and maintenance staffs. When we left the last time, I placed a large box of candy at the nurses’ station with a thank-you note for the wonderful care.
Aside from adding my encouragement to your Valentines for Vets program, I would like your readers not to forget our veterans on other days, especially Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July.
— Vet’s Wife in Northern California
Dear Vet’s Wife: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to remind our readers on Veterans Day to visit their local VA hospital and brighten the day for the residents there. You don’t have to have any special skills. Bring flowers, baked goods if permitted, books or photos of your kids to break the ice, and simply ask a few questions: Where did you grow up? Do you have any hobbies? What is your favorite movie, book, etc.? How are you feeling? And take the time to listen to the responses. It can make a world of difference.
Dear Annie: I have been seeing “Gary” for three years. He is a wonderful person but gets upset easily. Lately, he has become verbally abusive. It’s quite painful because I know inside he is a good person.
I am insecure now and don’t know what to expect. I do not want to be without him because he makes me happy most of the time. When he is in a great mood, he treats me like a queen and constantly says “I love you.” Should I take the bad with the good?
— Extremely Sad
Dear Sad: Not the abusive “bad.” If Gary recognizes that his verbal arrows are hurtful, inappropriate and possibly out of his control, he may be willing to get help before his behavior escalates. Tell him to see his doctor for a complete checkup and get anger management counseling, or you are out of there. And mean it.
Dear Annie: I can relate to the letter from “Help Needed in Florida,” whose grown children blame her for everything.
I have three grown children. Like “Help,” I am also liked and respected by friends and co-workers, but unless I kiss the behind of my eldest daughter, she acts cold and distant. She and her husband are punitive if I don’t do everything they want or if I say anything negative about their children’s conduct.
I thought I was a caring, loving mom. I remember years ago, Ann Landers asked her readers if they had it to do over again, would they have children. I really don’t know how I would answer. My former mother-in-law used to say, “When they are little, they step on your toes, and when they are grown, they step on your heart.”
— Sad Sandie
Dear Sandie: We remember that survey — the vast majority of readers said “no,” but those who are unhappy are most likely to write. Not every child is a source of comfort to his or her parents. We hope you have a loving relationship with the others.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.