Annie’s Mailbox for April 20, 2011: Neighborhood misunderstanding causing rift
April 20, 2011
Dear Annie: We have lived for six years in a lovely neighborhood and have great neighbors on both sides. My wife and I travel extensively, often for months, and both neighbors, “Jim” and “John,” have keys to our house and keep an eye on things, reporting to us via e-mail even when our grown children or in-laws stop by.
Last week, a police officer came to our door saying that the neighbor across the street had reported seeing Jim and his wife walking through our yard, looking at our house and in our windows. It’s possible this happened while we were traveling, but we were last away from home nine months ago.
Jim and his wife have two small dogs and spend a lot of time outdoors, occasionally running through our unfenced front and back yards, with our permission. We told the policeman this, and he was bewildered why the other neighbor would make the effort to call and even take photographs of Jim looking at our house. He said he’d talk to the neighbor and defuse the situation.
I called Jim the next day and told them what happened. My wife and I believe they have a right to know someone called the police to complain about them. The next morning, there was a “For Rent” sign in Jim’s yard.
Were we wrong to tell Jim? It apparently created a huge problem. Should we go across the street and speak to the neighbor and explain that Jim watches our house for us? Why didn’t they come to us instead of going to the police? Should we encourage Jim to speak with the neighbor?
— Perplexed and Confused
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Dear Perplexed: You were not wrong to tell Jim about the complaint, although his reaction seems extreme. If you want to play mediator, go ahead, although first check to see if there is a neighborhood mediation group. If your other neighbor did not recognize Jim, his call to the police was perfectly understandable. But you can gently explain that while you appreciate his watching out for you, you often ask Jim to keep an eye on your home when you travel.
Dear Annie: I married a widower. Every time it’s our anniversary, my birthday or even Valentine’s Day, he says he didn’t have time to buy a card or a gift, telling me, “I never know what to buy you. It’s better if you buy what you want.” This isn’t true. He knows what I like. What really hurts is to hear him talk about the lovely things he bought his late wife.
We come from different cultures. He doesn’t like my music, my language or my family. Every time I’ve gone back to visit, I’ve had to go alone. He makes no effort to be part of my world. Annie, is this really love?
— Lost in Times Square
Dear Lost: Love isn’t measured by how many gifts or cards you receive. And plenty of spouses steer clear of the in-laws. What matters is how he treats you the other days of the year. You are the only one who can decide how important his acceptance of your culture is in the overall picture and whether his other qualities make up for these slights.
Dear Annie: This is in response to the letter from “Help, Please,” the daughters-in-law who are searching for options for their aging in-laws. They should also speak to their local Department of Family Services, as they are the ones who deal with the Medicare and Medicaid payments for seniors.
We had the same issues with my father-in-law. He, too, was worried about what would happen when his money ran out. The DFS people were invaluable with their help and in answering our questions.
— Been There in Wyoming