The leftovers thief

Dear Annie: I have had this issue with a certain family member, and I am hoping you can advise me on what to do. When the family of one of our sons visits and eats dinner at our house, his wife cleans up afterward, which is appreciated, but the problem is that she takes 90 percent of the food for herself and her grown children without asking. If they were having financial problems, I would gladly give it all to them, but this is definitely not the case. One year, she wrapped up the remains of a 5-pound ham. I am now stopping the meals and offering only dessert, which I feel bad about. I feel worse about her taking what isn’t hers to take. Help, please. I will be watching for your reply. Thank you so much for listening. — Longtime Fan

Dear Longtime Fan: You never know what goes on behind closed doors. Maybe they are having financial problems. Regardless, she is feeding your grandchildren. If it really bothers you that she takes all the leftovers, perhaps you could set aside a plate of leftovers and put a cute name tag on it for her. Either way, I would be extremely reluctant to cut her off from taking home some of the food — and don’t settle for serving only dessert when you and your family would prefer a real meal.

Dear Annie: Up until six months ago, my 96-year-old father was active. He was driving, helping with farm chores and even driving the tractor in the fields to assist with harvesting. We are a long-established Upper Midwestern farm family. We have a wonderful community of loving people. Mom (who passed away many years ago) and Dad were vibrant. Dad was a leader in many ways and respected in all areas of his career, church and community. Until recently, he was visiting shut-ins and helping others any way he could. Now he is the one who is a shut-in — suffering from a stroke and unable to take care of himself.

I am so angry with those people he loves so much who cannot find the time to visit or send a card or make a phone call. Don’t ask me how Dad is doing! Visit him. Take him a cookie or a cup of ice cream. Let him know how much you have appreciated him over the years. Share a good story. Even a short visit means everything. His whole world has changed. He knows he is declining. “Busy” isn’t going to matter when your loved ones are gone.

Annie, thank you for your platform. I am appreciative of every minute I have with my father and wish that all children could feel that emotion. I was away from the community for most of my life and understand how day-to-day living can diminish family history and heritage. When our parents are gone, it seems that so much tradition is gone. — Daughter in Wisconsin

Dear Daughter: Your message will be relevant to many families, so I’m happy to provide a platform. But if you’re trying to get through to your family members, this isn’t the most efficient way. You need to communicate to them how lonely and isolated your dad is feeling and what direct actions they can take to help. Sure, ideally, they would have sprung to action on their own accord, but in reality, it might take a wake-up call. Pick up the phone.