Annie's Mailbox: Brother has distanced himself from family

Dear Annie: I am 56 and have a 45-year-old brother, “Bruce.” Although I was close to him, he and my mother never got along, and when Bruce married, he ceased all communications with the family. He showed up for our parents’ funerals, but Mom died two years ago, and I haven’t heard from Bruce since.

I recently e-mailed him to ask whether he wanted a ring that had belonged to our father. I received no response. Bruce and his wife have one daughter. Since she is my niece, I send gifts and cards on her birthday and Christmas, as well as small gifts and cards to my brother and his wife. In return, they send us their annual photocopied Christmas newsletter.

If not for my niece, who is now 9, I wouldn’t bother having any contact at all. I think it is important for her to know she has family who love her on her father’s side, too. What do you think?

— Sheila

Dear Sheila: Your brother, in his own small way, is maintaining contact. And on the assumption that you receive some type of thank-you note from your niece or her parents, we hope you will continue to send cards and gifts. You are a caring aunt and it shows, even to your brother. You never know what will happen down the road.

Dear Annie: I am an 81-year-old man in good health. My wife died more than a year ago. The last three years of our marriage were hell. She was going to file for divorce, but became sick, went into the hospital and never came out. She died there.

Recently, I began dating a woman I have known for 10 years. I am 15 years older than she is. She has been fighting cancer a long time and is doing well. We are going to be married soon, and all of my friends are thrilled. However, my three middle-aged children refuse to accept her.

I love this woman very much, and she loves me. I know marrying her is the right thing for both of us. But I don’t know what to do about my kids rejecting her. Please help.

— Don

Dear Don: Your children lost their mother a year ago, and they still are grieving. They also may not have been aware that she was planning to divorce you, or they may be in denial about how miserable you were. Kids, even adult ones, tend to assume their parents will work things out eventually. Try talking to them. Say you love them, but this woman makes you happy and you hope they will eventually be more accepting. Don’t push them, but please continue to invite them over, see them often (even without your new wife) and maintain a relationship. They can’t become more comfortable with your new situation unless they are routinely exposed to it.

Dear Annie: I’m writing in response to “Concerned Daughter,” whose mother drinks too much.

I’m 18 and just left for college, and my mother has been an alcoholic since I was 10. Although she once tried to get sober, it did not last for more than a few months.

I have accepted that you cannot get an alcoholic to admit alcoholism unless he or she wants to, and the only way to cope is to teach oneself coping mechanisms. For me, the only way is to completely detach myself emotionally from my mother.

I offer support to “Concerned Daughter” and encourage her to find support with friends and family members.

I may never have a decent relationship with my mother, and this is her fault, and I have accepted it. Instead, I have wonderful relationships with my father, relatives and friends. It’s difficult to deal with, especially in my teen years, but it has made me stronger. I wish her all the best, while warning her that a loving relationship with her mother may prove impossible.

— BTDT

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