DEAR ABBY: I would like to make my father's final years of life happy ones. The problem is, Dad is a bigot. He is loud, opinionated and verbally abusive to and about people. Visiting him is stressful because I know the conversation will, at some point, turn to how terrible a certain person, country or political persuasion is. He is ill-informed yet convinced he is right.
My father is also not willing to forgive anyone who has hurt him. He thrives on anger and hate. It saddens me that his last years are so rooted in unhappiness and negativity. I don't know how to create lasting, loving memories — for both Dad and me. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
— OUT OF IDEAS IN NEW ORLEANS
DEAR OUT OF IDEAS: Your impulse is noble, and I respect you for it. But your father didn't suddenly become the way he is. What you have described are the patterns of a lifetime.
You might have better luck if you limit your time with him, and when you visit and he goes off on a tangent, smile and say, "Dad, we get to spend so little time together — let's talk about happy things." If that doesn't improve this situation, you might be able to retrain him by saying, "Dad, if you're going to go on like this, then I can't stay."
But please accept the fact that you are not going to change your father. Change has to come from within.
DEAR ABBY: My wife has recently become bulimic, and it is having an impact on our family. I have looked into treatment centers where patients can go for two to six weeks and receive constant care and help, but they are very expensive. Where can someone go to get help that does not cost an arm and a leg?
— NEEDS HELP FAST IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR NEEDS HELP FAST: The first thing you must do is see that your wife is examined by her medical doctor to determine whether the bulimia has harmed her body. Then she needs to be evaluated by someone who treats bulimia to find out how serious her problem is. Inpatient treatment is expensive, but your wife's condition may not be so serious that it is warranted.
A daytime program in which she could return home at night might work for her, and it is less expensive. Another possibility would be ongoing therapy once or twice a week, which is even less costly. Some programs charge on a sliding scale.
Public agencies such as the Department of Social Services or Mental Health Services may have therapists who are qualified to treat bulimia at reduced rates. Or depending upon your family's financial situation, she might qualify for treatment under Medicaid.
An organization that may be able to guide you is the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Inc. (ANAD). While ANAD does not offer treatment, it does provide information about self-help groups, therapy and referrals to professionals. For more information, visit its Web site at www.anad.org or call (847) 831-3438.
DEAR ABBY: I am a budding photographer and have recently framed and hung a montage of some scenic photos I took on my bathroom wall. The problem is, my husband says that photographs do not belong in the bathroom. What do you think?
— DEFLATED EGO
DEAR DEFLATED: Actually, your husband may have a point. The steam and dampness could damage your prints. So ask him where he thinks a more appropriate place to display them might be, and see if anything "clicks" so you can reach a compromise.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.