A Judgment Call
Dear Margo: I am a 74-year-old man; my wife is 71. Our children are married, and my wife and I thought our remaining years would be comfortable and quiet. About a year ago, my 57-year-old niece was left homeless when my sister, her mother, with whom she lived, passed away. My sister’s home was on a reverse mortgage, and the bank took it back. I fixed up our basement as a small living area for her, and she seems comfortable and happy and is no trouble at all.
I have another niece, her sister, who has three late-teenage children, a girl and two boys. The younger boy she threw out of the house more than a year ago. He now lives with her ex, his father. Her other son, 20, she has thrown out on several occasions. I don’t know the circumstances. She knows how to push his buttons, and when he responds negatively, she throws him out. He currently is out again.
With the recent eviction, he had no place to go. His father declined getting involved, which meant leaving him on the streets. My live-in niece asked whether it would be OK if the young man could sleep at my home for one night, rather than being on the streets. Needless to say, I agreed. Now it seems he has planted his roots for a long stay. To top it off, his mother has contacted him and told him she would still like to have a relationship with him, but she continues to push his buttons.
I don’t know what my responsibility is regarding the young man. Should I let him stay, get him back to his mother, try to get them some type of counseling? — Confused
Dear Con: You sound like a saint to me, and certainly you are more than gracious about having your quiet golden years made less quiet. The one thing I am sure of is that the mother is nitroglycerin for her sons, so forget about trying to fix that up or getting her into joint counseling. And I am wondering what the issues are with the kid you’ve got living there that made his father bow out.
If having this nephew in your house does not throw everything into a cocked hat, there must be rules. Counseling should be one of them, along with a job or school. For myself, I would be unhappy if a request for “just one night” turned into forever. Do what you feel you can for this young man, but do not sacrifice your life in the bargain. — Margo, ambivalently
When You’re Not Really a Grandfather
Dear Margo: Could you help my cousin out on a naming matter? He is married to an older woman whose daughter just had a child. He is close in age to the young mother, and we are trying to come up with a name for the baby to call him that isn’t of the “grandfather” sort, but also isn’t his given name or “Uncle Joe.” Any ideas? P.S.: You helped me out with the freeloader problem last year. — Stumped in Fiji
Dear Stump: I am happy to see that your problems are diminishing in severity. Regarding your name question, the field of possibilities is certainly narrowed when you eliminate any “grandfather” designation, his first name and “Uncle Joe.” I think I would go with some baby-talk version of what the child calls your cousin when s/he begins to talk. A friend’s grandkids started calling him Boppo, which is no one’s idea of “Grandpa.” I think the young stepgrandfather should wait for the baby to say something adorable in baby talk and then let that be the name. — Margo, nominally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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