Dear Annie: Twenty five years ago, my youngest son, then 18, quit the job he had had for four years. They had promised him an assistant manager job and when he turned 18, but did not follow through. After that, he would not look for a job or even help around the house. His dad told him to leave, but I let him return. Still, my son continued to do nothing, so his father insisted he get out. His father had a terrible temper and we both knew it. We were afraid of him.
I knew my son was sleeping in his car, so whenever I saw him, I would give him food and blankets. I also left the back door unlocked so that when his father wasn't home, he could get into the house, warm up and eat.
I know now that my son was depressed, but I didn't realize it at the time. Over the years, I kept track of his whereabouts, but he would never speak to me except in anger. He married two years ago, and I tried to reconcile through his wife, but she saw only my son's side. She did tell me that he was angry because I didn't leave with him.
I admit I am a weak person with a long history of mental abuse from my husband and I was afraid to leave. I regret a lot of things, Annie, but I love my children. I sent him a card at Christmas, but his wife returned it to me all cut up, along with a vulgar note.
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My older children know how things were at home and they don't blame me. They can't do anything about their brother's attitude. I am 72 years old. I don't have to be invited to my son's house. I just want to know that should I run into him, he will speak to me without anger. What can I do? -- Florida Mother
Dear Florida: Abusive home situations are complicated. Your son blames you for not protecting him from his angry father, but you felt helpless and, like too many abused women, chose to remain with your husband. Many kids live independently at age 18, but due to depression, your son was not ready and ended up in his car -- a risky situation and one that made him feel abandoned and unloved.
You cannot change the past. Until your son is ready to move forward, there is little you can do. Ask your other children to let their brother know how sorry you are and that you crave his forgiveness while there is still time. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. We hope you can find solace in your other children.
Dear Annie: "Stuck in San Francisco" said his wife is overly dependent on her parents. That makes them part of the problem, so they should be involved in the counseling you recommended.
When I needed counseling to help me cope with my father-in-law, my mother was staying with us. Because she was part of our household, she had to be at one of the counseling sessions and it made a big difference. I learned that my mother also wanted too much of my time, but I did not let that happen. I put my husband first.
"Stuck's" in-laws may not be aware of the depth of their daughter's problem, and they need to understand the damage they are doing by preventing her from maturing. -- Wife of 50 Years
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