Dear Annie: Taking advantage of Dad
Dear Annie: My father is a widower in his late 80s and recently experienced a fire in his home that caused extensive damage. My brothers, my sisters and I discovered that he had canceled his home insurance some time before the fire because it was “too expensive.” It was necessary to move my father out of the house temporarily to make necessary repairs. Then we discovered there were other much-needed upgrades because my father had not been taking care of his home.
I have been helping with his finances and a necessary loan and discovered that he has been financially helping a woman in her 50s who used to live next door to him. She lives in another state but has been coming out during the winter months to stay with him. When she stays with my dad, she usually locks herself away when family members visit.
I now know that in addition to paying for her flight here and all other expenses, he sends her home with signed checks she uses for cash, flowers and a storage unit. My dad also frequently mails her gifts. Over the past year, the amount has been in the thousands.
This woman is disabled but lives on her own near her parents. I’ve talked to my dad about the situation, and he admitted that he’s been helping her for many years. She calls him daily and tells him that she couldn’t live without his help. He’s making plans to move her back to the house when the repairs are finished.
My brother has called her on two occasions and politely explained that though my dad cares for her, he is financially unable to send her money. Both times, she listened but then immediately called my dad to tell him that my brother was bullying her and that she couldn’t see my dad anymore. Each time, she then got another check.
My dad’s income is sufficient to make mortgage payments and keep up his house; however, he cannot afford to continue supporting her. I think she is an emotional bully and taking advantage of my elderly dad, who is a nice guy and feels obligated to take care of her because of her disabilities. Any suggestions? – Defensive of Dad
Dear Defensive: Love is blinding. This woman sounds manipulative, all right. But your dad can’t (or won’t) see it that way. He clearly has strong feelings for her, whether driven by romantic love or an attachment to being the rescuer. It’s nice to be needed.
As long as your father is of sound mind, he is entitled to make his own decisions, so your best option is to talk to him about making better ones. Furthermore, pay his bills to the relevant companies directly rather than give him cash, which might end up in the hands of his damsel in distress.
Finally, be sure to spend lots of time with Dad. He’ll be less vulnerable if he feels as if his kids still need him, too.
Dear Annie: I know a mother who hosts rather elaborate birthday parties for her young children (who are 2 and 6) and takes all the gifts, unopened, home for a private opening with select invitees. This seems rather rude. Am I wrong to feel that gifts at children’s parties should be opened at the party for all to see? Feeling Slighted
Dear Slighted: The mother is most likely trying not to embarrass less fortunate children and parents, whose gifts might seem humble compared with others’. As long as you get a “thank you,” rest assured that your gift is appreciated.
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