DEAR ABBY: I cannot believe I'm writing to you, but this problem has been festering for 13 years and I'm at the end of my rope. It's my sister-in-law, "Ethel." She's a hypochondriac who feels that she must be the center of attention. Regardless of the situation, she has always "been there, done that, I know how you feel."
My father has lung cancer and underwent six weeks of exhaustive radiation. My mother and I are watching him die and have spent many sleepless nights with him. Ethel sounds like a broken record, repeating that she knows how he feels, knows how we feel, etc. I want to say to her, "Unless you have watched a father die, or watched a husband die, then you CANNOT 'understand' what Mother and I are going through!"
Her kids are brats, and I'm not the only one to say so. She leaves them unattended to go to a job that she does not need. My brother has a terrific job and makes excellent money. I cannot figure out why he tolerates her. People can't stand to be around her and make fun of her every chance they get. She's always "sick" because it's her way of getting attention. I'm sick of biting my tongue and I'm itching to tell her off. Should I? -- ITCHING ON THE EAST COAST
DEAR ITCHING: No! Telling her off would be counterproductive and would create more problems than you already have. You can't change your sister-in-law. Avoid the poor woman whenever possible, and in the interest of family unity, tolerate her when you must.