Annie's Mailbox: Uncle is abusive when drunk

Dear Annie: I’m 18 years old and still live with my family. A few months ago, my uncle moved in with us. He comes home drunk all the time. I can smell the liquor on him, and I hate it. I make sure to be in my bedroom before he walks in the front door, which often means I’m upstairs by 6 p.m.

I want nothing to do with him when he is drunk. He tries to hold my baby brother, but it makes the baby cry, so I have told my uncle to stay away. I want to tell him how I feel, but I’m not sure how. When my mother told him he’s not welcome in the house when he’s been drinking, he hit her.

What should I do? Should I ask my grandma to kick him out, or should I move into my own place?

— Niece of a Drunk

Dear Niece: If your uncle is physically abusive, he should not be living with you. By all means, talk to your grandmother and your mother. If possible, talk to your father, as well. Most likely, your mother thinks she is helping your uncle, who obviously has a problem, but allowing him to terrorize you is not the way to do it.

Suggest that she contact Al-Anon (al-anon.alateen.org) at 1-888-4-AL-ANON (1-800-425-2666). If your uncle hits anyone again, call the police. And if you cannot change the situation, we urge you to move out as soon as possible.

Dear Annie: I recently began volunteering to tutor someone in the community, and I love it. However, at yesterday’s session, my student gave me an envelope that contained a gift card for a fairly large amount of money.

I had previously told this student that I cannot be paid because it is volunteering, and I do not want payment. But when he handed me the envelope, it seemed awkward to refuse it. In his culture, that would be considered rude.

He told me it was a gift between friends, but I feel so bad and dishonest about accepting it that I am extremely uncomfortable. Since he cannot return the gift card, is it acceptable for me to reciprocate at some point with a gift of equal value? I cannot conscientiously log the time with him as volunteer hours with this weighing on my mind.

— Sick About It

Dear Sick: Do you have a supervisor who runs the tutoring program? If so, ask how you should handle the gift card. You also might consider using it for tutoring supplies — paper, pencils, books, etc. Under no circumstances should you get into a gift-reciprocation program, which not only might escalate into something expensive, but could give the impression that your relationship is something other than student and teacher.

Dear Annie: I would like to respond to “Louisville Lass,” who complained about overindulgence by grandparents at Christmas. I faced this situation the first year after going through a divorce. The kids spent Christmas with both sets of families and came home loaded down with gifts.

I decided to write a list of big items the children wanted, and each parent and set of grandparents would get to pick one. This way nobody would feel they needed to compete with anyone else. It worked beautifully and was so appreciated by everyone that to this day, my girls do the same thing with their children. I understand the appeal of giving to a college fund, but as a grandparent now, I would really miss seeing the joy on my grandchildren’s faces when they open my presents.

And if that’s too much materialism, perhaps they could work alongside their grandchildren in a charitable situation, thereby instilling in them the value of helping their community. I’d bet the children would remember this long after they forgot what presents they received.

— Jeannie

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. 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.

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