Annie's Mailbox: How can I avoid hurting my bipolar, hard-luck mom? 

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Dear Annie: My parents eloped 35 years ago, and my grandmother never forgave them.

She disowned my mother and has never been part of our lives. Four years ago, my oldest brother also cut off contact with the family.

After losing two of the most important people in her life, my mother, who is bipolar, feels as if everyone is going to betray her at some point.

My two other brothers and I walk on pins and needles, worried that we will accidentally do something to hurt her. Mom has gone to counseling and is on medication.

Recently, my 5-year-old son was accepted to two excellent schools. Unfortunately, it puts us in a very tough situation. Mom works at one of the schools. She loves the place, but we don’t feel it is as good a fit for our son as the other.

But, we are afraid of hurting Mom by choosing the other school. Even talking about it will make her feel she is a terrible person for putting us in this situation.

My question is, is it worth the trouble to send our son to the school of our choice, or should we just send him to Mom’s school?

She was so excited when he was accepted there that she cried tears of joy. It has given her something to look forward to, and I don’t want her to be hurt again.

— Lost in Louisville, Ky.

Dear Lost: You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your child’s education because you don’t want to hurt Mom.

On the other hand, the difference between the schools may be minor.

Talk to Mom. Tell her you value her input, and ask her to help you compare the two schools with your son’s personality and talents in mind.

Ideally, she will reach the same conclusion as you. But if not, do what is best for your child, and try to make it up to Mom in other ways.

Dear Annie: My husband has a high-level executive position that entails attending many public situations that involve eating.

Annie, he uses his fingers to push food onto his fork, and then he licks his fingers. He has done this at office banquets and dinners in fine-dining restaurants. I have actually seen him pick up the food with his fingers and then put it on his fork.

It makes me think, why even use the fork? It’s how he was brought up, because his mother does the same thing.

I was always taught to use my knife or a piece of bread to push the food when needed. It embarrasses me when he does this, and I imagine he is embarrassing himself, as well.

Is there any way to approach him about this?

— Sticky Situation

Dear Sticky: Be honest. Use this as an opportunity to educate your husband on the social graces he ought to have in the rarified circles in which he finds himself.

Tell him you love him and understand that he was never taught these things, but pushing his food with his fingers is considered poor manners and you don’t want others to think ill of him. Explain that it takes time to shed old habits, and offer to work with him at home, gently reminding and correcting him as needed.

We hope he is amenable.

Dear Annie: I completely agree with “No Photo Op” to have a closed casket, but for a different reason.

While I, too, think taking open-casket photos is a bit ghastly, I also am creeped out when people say, “Doesn’t she look beautiful?”

Despite the solace it might give the grieving family members to hear these words, the answer is, “No, she doesn’t look great. She looks dead.”

This is one reason I want my casket closed. After all, what made me who I am is already gone from that dead body.

— No Open Casket

Dear No: This is such a personal decision that everyone should be certain his or her loved ones are aware of their preferences. Feel free to use this column to start the discussion.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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