Carolyn Hax: Bad habits, grandparents, hollow apologies and bigots

June 30, 2013 

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On dealing with a loved one's nihilist views (and habits):

These people think they'll simply drop dead from their bad habits. While that's one possibility, it's far more likely they'll end up living with significant disabilities. The chronic lung diseases that accompany long-term smoking severely limit activities, including walking from the bathroom to the living room. Liver disease and diabetes can also create major impediments to enjoying the life you have. Dying seems an easy out, compared to living with disabilities that affect every aspect of your life.

S.

My father said the same things - that he was going to die soon, that he wasn't going to live to be very old, how many of his friends were already dead. Then he would keep eating, not listening to his doctor, not taking care of his health needs.

He died at 58. Most of what killed him was preventable. I wish I had been more forceful with him. I wish I had said that he was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wish I had told him how much that hurt me, that he didn't care enough about being around for me and his girlfriend to even try to use his medications properly. I wish I had been more honest about his bull. I don't know what good it would have done in the long term, but I wouldn't be left in this position of wondering whether he would have altered his behavior had I been braver.

E.

As one who is a few months shy of 80 and who lost her father at age 9, I have this recommendation: The next time a loved one refers to his upcoming death, put your arms around him and tell him you love him. And maybe even add, for good measure, that you will miss him.

PERSPECTIVES

On making the best of what grandparents have to offer:

My mother-in-law did not hold the baby, make a meal, do the wash. In fact, it amazed me that this woman had had many babies of her own - her lack of instinct about what I might need was palpable.

My mother-in-law is also an easy laugher. She is narcissistic, yes, but pleasant as punch. Her relationship with my children grew as they grew. They knew, as children do, exactly what they could count on her for. Maybe she wouldn't have a thoughtful birthday gift, or ask about their achievements or interests - but she would swim and make whirlpools with them, let them row her about in a canoe while she laughed and laughed, share HER interests with them. They love her deeply - just what my husband and I hoped for them.

What's lacking in a grandparent/grandchild relationship is not what defines it. If I or my husband had reacted to the inability to contribute up front, my children would have lost a great deal.

J.

On wanting an apology from someone who wronged you:

The best gift of closure I ever got was the double apology from my jerky, serial-cheater ex.

When we broke up, I felt like if only I'd been prettier/more interesting/whatever, he wouldn't have wanted to cheat and our amazing (ha) relationship would not have ended.

A year later he apologized to me, told me he was just then coming out of a dark bad place, told me I'd done nothing wrong, told me he was taking a break from relationships to make sure his head was OK.

Didn't help.

Three years later we ran into each other and, he told me that he was just then coming out of a dark place, and he was taking a break from relationships to make sure his head was OK, etc.

I replied with every bit of sincerity I could muster: "Oh no. I'm a little worried about you. Two years ago, you told me you were just coming out of a bad place. And now you're back in the same place?"

In that moment I finally realized he was completely full of (it), which had nothing to do with me.

So, I'm all for apologies.

ANONYMOUS

On the person who wanted to leave the neighborhood because "there are so many (members of a certain race)":

A good response might be, "I know how you feel. My neighborhood is full of bigots."

J. IN N.C.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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