Dear Annie: I am in my early 20s and am now living with my mother after having been on my own for a while. Mom has been seeing a man named "Dan" for two years, and I just found out that they are engaged, although I haven't officially been told yet.
Dan and his 13-year-old son moved in with us in August, and it has been a difficult transition. Dan is a clean freak, and he goes crazy over a dish in the sink or a stain on the counter. He also is a racist. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard him use offensive, derogatory ethnic slurs. When I bring it up to my mother, she defends him, saying he was raised in a different time in a different place. Personally, I don't think that's a good excuse.
I cannot ever criticize Dan, because my mother always takes his side, no matter what, and says I'm insensitive for giving him grief. Now that they are engaged, I feel close to a nervous breakdown.
I loved my father very much, and when he died four years ago, I took it very hard. I try to envision the future, and Dan just doesn't fit in. When I have kids, I don't want them to know him as their grandfather. What should I do? Losing It
Dear Losing: No matter how odious a choice your mother has made, it's her choice, and you must find a way to live with it. Instead of criticizing Dan -- or worse, comparing him to your father -- try kindness and caring. Tell Mom you understand that she doesn't want to be alone, but you are concerned that Dan may not make her happy. Meanwhile, start saving your money so you don't have to share living quarters, and if Mom marries Dan, do your best to be civil to your new stepfather. It will allow you to keep your relationship with your mother.
Dear Annie: I just turned 49, and my wife is 45. We have two beautiful kids who have given us such joy. Three years ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, our world has fallen apart because of the medical bills. I have a great job, but my benefits only go so far.
The problem is my wife's family. Not one of them has offered to help financially, yet they all travel, live in beautiful homes, drive fancy cars and gamble away thousands in casinos. They see us struggle daily, living paycheck to paycheck. They know I had to sell things to get money for rent.
My family has given more than I can express. My dad believes a family member in need is never turned down. You would think my wife's family would want to help her, but they don't. My wife and I have decided that when her time comes to leave us, her relatives will not be welcome at the funeral.
Thank you, Annie. I just needed to vent. I get so frustrated, but I will get through this. Determined in the Midwest
Dear Determined: Our hearts are breaking for you. How difficult it must be to deal not only with your wife's illness and the subsequent financial burden, but also the betrayal and abandonment from family members. It is possible, though unlikely, that your wife's family thinks you may be insulted if they offer financial aid, but after noticing your difficulties, they should have cared enough to make the offer regardless. We'll be thinking of you.
Dear Annie: The other day at breakfast, I read your column about wives of retired husbands who go bananas with hubby at home. Feeling very superior on this score, I asked across the table to my wife of 51-plus years: "I don't drive you bananas since I retired, do I?" Without missing a beat she responded: "Oh, no, no, no. You did that long before retiring." Sigh. Martin
Dear Martin: Thanks for making us laugh. We needed that.
XE-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox™, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, Ill. 60611.