Carolyn Hax: Don’t let a reluctant hubby keep you from an ailing mother-in law

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 18

Hello, Carolyn:

I love my mother-in-law dearly. She’s in her mid-90s and has congestive heart failure, is blind and has fallen and broken bones several times in recent years. She’s now on oxygen and gets sick way too often. She lives 1,200 miles from us and we haven’t seen her in two years.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I really want to go visit, but my husband keeps saying he can’t get off work and the trip is too expensive. Well, he gets off work for four or five days to do other things with no problem, and we have plenty of air miles and money. He has been putting me off: “Maybe I can get off in October” . . . “October’s too busy” . . . “Maybe we can go in March” . . . “March is too cold, maybe April.”

He also says doctors don’t know everything; maybe she’ll live for many more years. (Really?)

He does phone Grandma every night, which is great, but doesn’t take the place of an actual visit.


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

I could go on my own, but Grandma might feel awful if her daughter-in-law comes to visit and son doesn’t bother. I can’t very well ask her: “Gee, Grandma, would you like to see me even if your son can’t/won’t come?”

To Visit or Not to Visit?

Maybe you can’t ask that, but you can plan a trip and make it very clear to your husband that he’s welcome to come with you, and that you otherwise won’t cover for him when Grandma asks why he isn’t there. “He is afraid,” you will explain to his mother. “He is in denial, and won’t accept that none of us has unlimited time.”

You can’t make him stop being willfully dense or negligent, but you can decline to allow his cowardice to govern you both; you have your own bond with her, after all. You also can decline to let this two-year absence from her home stand as the last word from her son’s branch of the family.

At least, I hope you can; you’re all running out of days to make this right. Please don’t waste any more.

Dear Carolyn:

My ex-husband is divorcing his second wife and moving on to his new girlfriend. This year, our son graduates from high school and a graduation party will be held at my house. I planned to invite my son’s stepmom, who is really the one who took care of my son during the court-ordered time he was away from home.

However, my son has asked to only invite his father, as the divorce is pretty nasty and he does not want this toxic environment in our home during his special time. I plan to do what my son requests, as this is his graduation.

She and my son keep in touch and she wants to be at the graduation. What should I do, not send an invitation or call her to discuss?

Graduation Clash

What happened to: C. Tell your son he needs to talk to his stepmom about this? Or D. Ask him to reconsider excluding the woman who gave him so much?

He’s not 10, he’s an adult now. Snubbing his stepmother is the injury; letting Mommy do the excluding for him is the insult. He needs to call his stepmother himself.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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