Hax: It's time to make it right with Grandma

The Washington PostMarch 19, 2014 

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.

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 that doesn't take the place of an actual visit.

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.

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

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