Dear Annie: I am writing today because I don't know where else to turn. My father and I have an estranged relationship. He wants to communicate with me, but I do not share his need.
My parents divorced because Dad cheated on Mom. He rarely showed any interest in me and often paid more attention to the children of the women he was dating. To be honest, I loved my father more when I knew him from a distance. But then my mom died, and I was forced to live with him. After years of mental and physical abuse, watching him cheat on his girlfriends and wives, my love for my father eroded to the point where I moved to another state to get away from him.
In the past few years, my father has tried to contact me. I have changed my number several times, but he continues to get the listing from my stepbrothers. Even though I have begged them not to do this, they feel guilty and always give him the information. I really don't want to talk to him.
The scars from the past run so deep that I have had trouble breathing when I've been "guilted" into calling him. So now I turn to you. What do I do? Hidden in Minnesota
Dear Hidden: First, are you absolutely certain you don't want to give your father another chance? He is getting older and may value his relationship with you enough to make changes. If that is not an option, let an answering machine screen all your calls, and since you are "guilted" into contacting him on occasion, we suggest sending a card instead, since talking on the phone is so stressful. You also might want to consider therapy so those old scars can finally heal.
Dear Annie: You were correct to tell "Texas T," the underweight 21-year-old, to check his thyroid. However, that alone is not sufficient. It's possible he has celiac sprue, and there is now a laboratory blood test available to find out.
Celiac sprue is caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. The disease is hard to diagnose due to the diversity of symptoms that it can present, including weight loss, bowel problems, skin disease and neurological abnormalities. Many patients with chronic fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome actually have undiagnosed celiac sprue. It affects all ages.
I was unaware of the prevalence of the disease until I was diagnosed with it. My only symptom was weight loss despite a very high caloric intake. The treatment is to avoid all foods containing gluten. Please advise "Texas T" to be tested for celiac, whether or not his thyroid turns out to be normal. A.R. Williams Jr., M.D.
Dear Dr. Williams: Thank you for providing another explanation for the inability to gain weight. Anyone who would like more information can contact the Celiac Sprue Association (csaceliacs.org), P.O. Box 31700, Omaha, NE 68131-0700.
Dear Annie: We have been invited to our niece's wedding in Costa Rica. Not attending is out of the question. However, it will cost over $5,000 for the four members of my immediate family. While yes, we will have a short vacation, we didn't get to select when or where, and the timing is extremely inconvenient.
Normally we would give a sizable present. Is that still a reasonable expectation, or is a token gift enough? Perplexed Guest
Dear Guest: One gives as much as one wishes, and what one can afford. The location of the wedding should have no bearing on the gift, although obviously, when you are out-of-pocket $5,000, you are less inclined to be extravagant. But you can still give something nice without robbing the kids' college fund.
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