Albuquerque, N.M.: My husband is retired, while I still work; we've been married for nearly 25 years. Now that times are lean, he wants to sell a bunch of old gold odds-and-ends jewelry that we've accumulated throughout the years. He has several pounds of "stuff' in a lockbox that his late father gave him; it had belonged to his grandparents and great-aunt, presumably, but he has no real idea who it belonged to, and it has no sentimental value to him. I have my grandmother's jewelry box with several really good items that have a lot of sentimental value to me, besides the monetary value. The problem: Instead of selling HIS stuff, he wants ME to sell my mother's, grandmothers', and great-grandmother's jewelry, which I wanted to pass down to my daughters and granddaughters. He has much more than I do, and it means very little to him, but he somehow thinks we should sell the little bit I have that means something to me, while he hangs onto his more valuable, more plentiful, and meaningless cache. I think maybe deep down he doesn't want my kids to benefit, also, since they don't get along with him, and they avoid their stepfather when they can. I'm thinking of just giving my kids their grandmothers' jewels and letting him do what he wants with his stockpile. This will cause problems with this man, however, and I have to live with him for now. What are your thoughts on this?
Emily Yoffe: No wonder your kids don't get along with him—he sounds like a controlling jerk. Yes, you decided to live with him, but you don't have to be held up at gunpoint by him and turn over your valuables. Sure, give the jewelry to your kids now before he gets it to the smelter—which, from the tone you take about him, may be where this marriage is headed.
Los Angeles: I think I'm asking one of the classic questions in reverse ... is there anything I can do to get my dad to call me? My dad and I are very close, but the only way we talk is if I call him. He is retired, lives alone, and has time to call me. Whenever I've asked him to pick up the phone occasionally (I ask less than once a year), he says he will but also that he doesn't want to bother me. I respond, "If I'm busy, I won't answer. So don't worry about it." I know some people would be thrilled not to be hounded by parents' calls, but I sometimes resent that he doesn't call me. I'm an only child, so I already feel a lot of responsibility for him and think being the sole caller is one responsibility too many. (For what it's worth, my husband's parents also rarely call, citing the same concern about bothering us. But they LOVE when we call. What is up with this?) Thank you for any advice you can offer!
Emily Yoffe: For whatever reason, you two have parents with phone phobia. As you acknowledge, that is far preferable to having parents who are phoneophiles. So just accept that you are the one who has to dial. Calling him takes a couple of seconds—then you're connected and all is well. Yes, you would love the demonstration that he's thinking of you, but just accept that calling isn't his style.
Seattle: I live in another part of the country than my family, and so my visits are infrequent. Recently, my mother came to visit me, and I was saddened by the changes in her personality since the last visit. While previously a career woman who took pride in her appearance, she has (in her 60s) gained a tremendous amount of weight, now has poor dental hygiene, and appears to be suffering some hearing loss for which she will not go to a doctor. Additionally, she has developed a habit of incoherent, endless rambling (to anyone nearby). Our family has a strong tendency for Alzheimer's, and one of my friends suggested that my mom might benefit from testing, but how do I approach this subject with my mom, when even my attempts to get her to go to a doctor for her hearing are belligerently refused?
Emily Yoffe: You must get her to go, even if it means flying across the country to make an appointment and accompanying her to it. Something alarming has happened to your mother, and she needs a full physical and mental evaluation. Surely you can enlist other family members to help you with this task. If your mother has Alzheimer's, a treatment and supervision program needs to be put in place before she endangers herself. Your mother may not even be competent to take care of her own affairs. You need to find that out right away and also intervene to get her the kind of help that will preserve her functioning as long as possible.
Washington, D.C.: Emily, Some of these situations have to be made up, right? I mean, damn.
Emily Yoffe: Real life is more amazing than we can even imagine.
Thanks everyone—talk to you next week!