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Dear Annie: Unable to use computers

Dear Annie: I am 74 years old. Back in my 40s, I tried learning an up-and-coming new skill: how to use a computer. Well, my attempts were fruitless. I could never figure it out. My wife tried teaching me, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Later, my boss appointed a staff member (a computer “geek”) to give me lessons. After weeks of trying with daily one-on-one instruction, he gave up trying to teach me. For me, it was nothing but frustration.

I seem to be an otherwise intelligent person. Fifty-three years ago, I even graduated college with honors. I did well with networking and keeping up with the latest news, until computers became ubiquitous.

I know dyslexia is a recognized learning disability that affects otherwise intelligent people who can’t learn to read. Do I have something like that — something that is a recognized learning disability? Am I the only one in the world with this problem? — In a Quagmire

Dear Quagmire: I have a feeling there are other people out there who have dealt with this problem, and I hope to hear from some of them. In the meantime, if this is causing you distress, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist who can screen for cognitive disabilities.

For what it’s worth, far too many of us are overly dependent on our computers and smartphones. I don’t mean to trivialize what you’ve gone through; I understand that it’s been enormously frustrating. But you’ve likely been more present for life than many of us.

Dear Annie: I am a 57-year-old divorced woman. I have a 31-year-old son who is dealing with serious health consequences from neglecting his Type 1 diabetes for the past 10 years. My heart breaks for him. His health keeps declining. He will have to start dialysis soon. He’s lived with me for most of his adult life.

My problem is that he is extremely verbally abusive. This has been going on for about five years and seems to be getting worse. He throws tantrums, sometimes so intense that he ends up damaging things in the house.

I’m tired of dealing with this, and I fear it will just keep getting worse. He can’t afford to live on his own with just $800 monthly disability checks. I just can’t deal with this anymore, but I can’t afford to pay rent at a whole separate apartment for him.

Is it wrong for me to professionally convert my two-car garage to an apartment for him and make him live there? — Worn-Down Mom

Dear Worn-Down: If you’re asking whether it’s selfish of you to convert your garage into an apartment for your son — no, absolutely not. But it might be “wrong” for different reasons, in that it doesn’t go far enough in creating space between you two.

You need to set healthy boundaries with your son, for both of your sakes. It’s completely unacceptable for him to treat you so poorly. Also, it’s not healthy for him to be in an environment where he can avoid the consequences of his actions. As psychologist Noelle Nelson put it: “Enabling is helping a person in a way that feeds the dysfunction. Helping is being there for someone in a way that does not support the dysfunction.” I recommend reading Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” and attending some meetings of a support group such as Families Anonymous before deciding on your next move.

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