Dear Annie: I have been happily married for many years and have always had a great relationship with my widowed mother-in-law.
Recently, my mother-in-law has had a few outbursts about seemingly minor things, almost like Jekyll & Hyde, very scary. Most of these outbursts have been directed at me.
Mom’s income is dwindling to the point where she is barely making ends meet, and her son recently left a well-paid job to start his own business, yet he has major expenses. I think these financial changes are weighing heavily on Mom and she is taking it out on me. But a friend also warned us to watch for early signs of dementia, which can include a personality change. He suggested we press my mother-in-law to see a doctor, but I am afraid she will be insulted and may further distance herself.
Do you think my mother-in-law is just suffering from normal anxiety about aging and finances, or is it something more serious? — Concerned Son-in-Law
Dear Concerned: Stress can cause these problems, as can dementia, and the only way to find out is to have Mom see a doctor and be evaluated. Your wife should be the one to broach the subject by simply suggesting to her mother that it may be time for a complete checkup. She can offer to make the appointment and go along and should alert the doctor privately beforehand to look for signs of dementia. And if there is anything you can do in the meantime to alleviate her financial concerns, please try.
Dear Annie: Several years ago, I had a serious relationship with a man who had the human papillomavirus (HPV). He hadn’t had an outbreak in a long time, so he didn’t feel the need to tell me. I found out the hard way, when my gynecologist told me I had cervical cancer.
Although I received top-notch treatment, I ended up having a total hysterectomy at the age of 36. That was 10 years ago. I recently heard that my ex and his wife are expecting their first child. I can’t help but wonder if, had he been straight with me, I might have been able to preserve my fertility and had the family I’d always dreamed about.
I’ve been seeing a therapist about these renewed feelings of depression. I understand I’m actually grieving for the children I never had. Please let your readers know that using a condom is essential, not just to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, but to save your life and the lives of your unborn children. — Empty Arms in California
Dear Empty Arms: According to the American Social Health Association (www.ashastd.org), there are more than 70 different types of HPV, some causing benign genital warts while others are linked to abnormal cell changes leading to cervical cancer. Because HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, condom use cannot completely prevent the disease, although it lowers the risk.
Of course your boyfriend should have told you about your exposure, but there is no guarantee the result would have been different. Our hearts ache for the loss you feel, but there are many ways to have a family and we hope you will look into adoption. You have a lot of love to give and there are many children who need you.
Dear Annie: I have another solution for “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” who was torn about giving a friend’s sculpture to her daughter or to the friend’s widow, who also wanted it.
One option you didn’t mention is to create a recast or second sculpture using the sculpture she currently has. She could then give the original to her daughter and the recast to the widow. — Thinking Outside of the Box
Dear Thinking: If the cost is affordable, we think this is a wonderful solution.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.28.07