Annie's Mailbox: They deserve to know their genetic history

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Dear Annie: I have two wonderful cousins, a brother and sister, related to me through their father. Both are now in their 50s and have seven children between them.

About 12 years ago, my stepmother spilled the beans and told me that our cousins are not biologically related to us because their parents had to resort to artificial insemination (using donor sperm) in order to become pregnant. I confirmed this story with my mother. She said my aunt and uncle had promised to tell the kids the truth someday.

Annie, I don’t believe my cousins were ever told, because I occasionally hear comments from them about how neither they nor their children look like anyone on their father’s side of the family.

My aunt and uncle have since died. I love my cousins regardless of parentage, but don’t they deserve to have their genetic information? One of the cousins has Crohn’s disease. Other things could come up.

— Loving Cousin in Philly

Dear Philly: If your stepmother knows this story, chances are your cousins have heard it, too. And you are right — they should have their medical history for themselves and their children. It would be best if one of their parents’ contemporaries talked to them — perhaps your mother would be willing. Otherwise, you can gently broach the subject by asking whether they have their complete genetic background.

Dear Annie: My elderly mother needs full-time care. She has paid caregivers who come to her home every day, and I stay with her about 30 hours a week, as well as tend to her finances, take her to the doctor, etc. My retired sister, “Lois,” helps out six hours to nine hours a week, but will not stay with Mom on weekends, so I do it.

I have struggled with resentment toward my sister, but felt I was making progress until yesterday. One of my friends informed me that Lois had invited her and her husband to see a play with them. Not only can I not imagine why Lois would be asking my friends to a social engagement, but they all knew I would be unable to go because I was watching Mom (not that I would have been asked). Am I wrong to be upset with both Lois and my friends?

— Stressed and Depressed

Dear Stressed: It was insensitive of your friends to let you know they were enjoying an event that excluded you, but it’s their business where they go and with whom. Your real issue is with Lois, who enjoys herself while you are taking care of Mom, and does so in a way that underscores your inability to socialize.

There is always one sibling who takes on more caregiving duties than the others. If you resent not having time to yourself, see whether one of Mom’s caregivers can relieve you on an occasional weekend, and ask Lois to help pay for it. Also contact the Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver.org) at 1-800-445-8106.

Dear Annie: This is for “Now or Later,” whose husband thinks he should attend the funerals rather than visit relatives while they are still living.

I have three younger sisters, none of whom has visited me in more than 30 years, and it’s not the money. They all travel extensively. When I asked why they never visit, two said, “I don’t have time,” and the other said, “Your husband once hurt my feelings.”

Consequently, with tear-filled eyes, I have requested that my family not notify them of my death until after the funeral. I can’t tell you how it hurts to know they could suddenly find the time to attend a memorial service when they will not make it a priority to visit me while I am still living.

— Brokenhearted

Dear Brokenhearted: Too many people put off seeing loved ones until it’s too late. Or worse, they think their presence at a funeral will give others the impression that they cared. Hopefully, some readers will see themselves and make plans for a visit.

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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