Dear Annie: My 8-year-old granddaughter, "Ashley," recently told me she is afraid she is going to die if her brother's 20-year-old girlfriend does not quit tickling her and poking her with her finger. Ashley says the girlfriend tickles her until she can't breathe, and when she screams for her mother's help, my daughter-in-law just says, "Now, you kids stop."
The girlfriend is not speaking to me because I told her this was a form of child abuse, and if I hear that she's done it again, I am going to call the police and child welfare services. I would like your opinion. —Worried Grandma
Dear Grandma: You have every reason to worry. Excessive tickling and poking is considered a form of child abuse, and this girlfriend either is a sadist or an idiot. Don't threaten her. Instead, inform your son and daughter-in-law that you will be forced to report the situation to the authorities if they don't take this seriously and make the girlfriend stop torturing your granddaughter. And follow through.
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married 10 years. He has two grown sons from a previous marriage. One is wonderful, responsible and caring. The other, however, goes from job to job looking for a better deal. "Robert" never calls us unless he needs something. He is a user.
The problem is, my husband feels responsible for Robert's difficulties because of the divorce. He thinks he has to keep trying to make it up to him for not being there when Robert was younger. My husband bought Robert and his wife a house because they could not get a loan. They are supposed to make payments to us and we then pay the mortgage. Of course, they skip payments rather often, and Robert now owes us thousands of dollars. My husband thinks Robert will get caught up some day, but in the meantime, our savings are dwindling.
We are at the point of telling Robert that he should move out so we can rent the place for a couple of years. Frankly, I can't imagine he will find an apartment for the same money they are paying us for the mortgage. What do you think? —Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: Tread carefully. Of course Robert should pay his own way, and he should not be living in a place he cannot afford, but you're asking your husband to make a difficult choice. Whether or not to throw Robert out of the house should ultimately be Dad's decision. Otherwise, you risk having him blame you if it damages the relationship with his son.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from Sam Cummings Jr., an official in the funeral industry, who explained why funerals are important.
Many people do not want the trappings (or expense) of a conventional funeral. When my brother died suddenly, I was acutely aware that he would have been appalled to think his farewell would be in a sterile funeral home or a church that had no meaning to him. Instead, I arranged for a remembrance in a beautiful forest where he had spent much of his life. The "green cathedral" seemed the perfect choice, with birds singing and a creek flowing by, surrounded by people who loved him. A friend recorded CDs of my brother's favorite music, ranging from Beethoven to the Grateful Dead, and I included hymns remembered from our childhood. Several friends and family members spoke, remembering his humor, warmth and intelligence.
More recently, my former husband, a retired naval officer, died after a brave fight with cancer. My daughter arranged an informal service in her home, and my son made a display of his father's uniform, sword and memorabilia from his life. —Remembering
Dear Remembering: A conventional ritual in a funeral home is not a requirement. The point is to provide some form of memorial that allows family and friends to say goodbye. Thanks for showing our readers a few ways how.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.
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