DEAR ABBY: Eight years ago, while visiting my son, "Jack," and his wife, "Mary," in a nearby state, I saw a few dishes in the sink waiting to be washed -- so I washed them. When Mary saw what I had done, she became upset. She said, "I don't keep house the way you do." My reply at the time was that I was only trying to be helpful. That was all the cleaning I did -- I swear.
A few years later, when they visited me, Mary vacuumed, scrubbed floors and cleaned out my refrigerator -- all without asking me or being asked to do so. When Jack noticed this unusual activity and questioned it, Mary replied, "She cleaned at our house when she visited us."
How do I handle such a long-held resentment without damaging my son's and my own relationship? I have never been invited to stay at their home since.
Jack does visit me alone, and the two of them stop by on their way to other vacation spots. Mary's latest ploy is to be very "concerned" about Jack driving such a long way by himself to visit me. They plan to be here in about six weeks. I need to confer with my son about my private finances, house repairs, and show him needed chores that I can no longer do myself. This house will be his to dispose of at my death.
My husband died 20 years ago. Until then I had never worked. I earned my college degree soon after and joined the workforce. I asked little of others during that emotionally draining time. I am not a person who demands much attention.
I know that I must prepare to move from my own home soon, and have asked Jack to investigate community living arrangements in a city near where he lives. He's dragging his feet. What should I do? He has my power of attorney. I have a brother, but he's 87 and not well. I also have a daughter on the East Coast, but she has problems of her own and a mentally ill husband. Please help me do some clear thinking. -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN RHODE ISLAND
DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: You appear to be thinking very clearly already. It's time to stop depending on your son. Hire a handyman to change the lightbulbs and do the little repairs around your house. And rather than waiting for Jack to investigate assisted-living facilities, begin doing it yourself. It would be a smart move because only you know what kind of a place will make you happy.
A word of warning, however: If at all possible, before making any permanent decisions about where you intend to live, rent out your house for a year and see how you would really like living in another community. If your support systems are all based where you are, you may decide you want to return to your home rather than relocate far from friends and familiar surroundings.