Your husband is right that your idea is touching, but the idea of getting up in the morning and having a friend’s hair attached to my scalp gives me the willies. When you buy a wig at a store, it is a depersonalized commodity. As well-meaning as your idea is, there is something a little like swapping toothbrushes about it. Of course you want to help your friend, and there are many ways you can do it. If she would like meals brought to the house, you can coordinate a dinner brigade by family and friends. If she wants to forget her health problems, you can take her out to a movie. If she wants a shoulder to cry on, supply yours. Because you’ve known her so long, you might also be the best person to get her out of a funk by remembering some of your crazier adventures over the years. Take your cues from your friend about the best way you can help her. That means not springing surprises on her, especially ones that have the potential of making her profoundly uncomfortable. Let’s hope her treatment is a success and that soon she will be seeing her own lovely locks return.
My husband, son, and I live far away from my parents. This means visits last at least several days. It’s cheaper and easier for us if they come to our house, but they prefer we visit them. Their house is a disaster. It borders on a hoarding situation. It’s dirty, and there isn't enough room to comfortably move, sit, eat, wash up, or sleep. My parents also have a dog that barks constantly and has a history of aggressive behavior. They have no smoke detectors, don't lock the doors, and the refrigerator is rarely cleaned out, so you never know what’s edible. They are aware that we don't like staying with them even though we haven't come out and said it. They just think we should “get over it” and make a “small sacrifice” for them. How do we get them to come to us, or should we just get over it and go to them?
—Love the People, Hate the House
You don’t say you grew up drinking curdled milk and navigating a path through piles of newspapers and animal droppings, so something has gone off not just with the food in the refrigerator but with your parents. It doesn’t do anyone any good to tiptoe around the truth (especially since what’s underfoot is so unpleasant). You need to speak lovingly but directly to your parents. “Mom, Dad, I’m concerned about what I’ve been seeing when I visit the house. It’s dirty in a way it never was when I was growing up. It’s not safe—you have no smoke detectors, the food is not cleared out regularly. I’m concerned that maintaining the house is getting overwhelming for you. Let’s discuss ways to address this.” Maybe your parents need to hire a cleaning crew to get them back to a semblance of normalcy. Maybe they need to move someplace that requires less upkeep. Maybe they each need a medical evaluation. But unless you’re coming in to help them clean up or see a doctor, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to say the house is too uncomfortable for your family vacation and you really want them to get a break and come see you.
How are you making it on reduced or no income? I'm collecting stories of how people are coping in straitened economic circumstances. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
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