Dear Annie: Three years ago, my sister, "Carol," said some awful things to me and our brother, "Stewart." She wounded us deeply and fractured our relationship. My parents worked diligently to get us to reconcile. After more than a year, I was able to patch things up, although I know we will never be close again.

However, despite my parents' best efforts (and mine), Stewart has not spoken to Carol in three years. We have pushed them to seek sibling counseling, but neither will initiate it. Because of this, holidays are an extremely painful and upsetting time. My parents and I have discussed various options, including boycotting all holidays, or rotating which year my parents go to Stewart's home and which year they go to Carol's. All options are pathetic.

Because of the estrangement, I won't be able to spend time with my parents on holidays. Furthermore, my children are deprived of creating memories with their grandparents no matter which option we choose. All three of us have young children, and I worry about the example Carol and Stewart are setting.

None of us is willing to have a "Stewart holiday" and a "Carol holiday" each year. Factoring in driving, time and money, it seems absurd. Annie, are there any solutions?

—Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck: Can you host these holiday festivities at your home or a neutral location, like a restaurant? Invite both Stewart and Carol, saying that holidays have become painful and you want them to be a special family time for your children and your parents. Add that they do not have to be chummy with one another or interact in any way, but you hope they can each be civil for the duration. Sometimes these estrangements take on a life of their own and it can help if an opportunity to smooth things over presents itself, especially if neither sibling has to make the first move.

Dear Annie: I am a 50-year-old widow of two years and have chronic back pain. My late husband and I developed a schedule of staying up late at night and sleeping away most of the morning. We enjoyed it. My parents, however, don't understand. They think I am wasting the day and want me to get out more.

I have explained that my back hurts and doing things that require a lot of activity makes it worse. I also am still mourning my husband and was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

I am tired of my family minimizing my pain and depression. My parents treat me like a child and expect me to ask their permission to stay home from church on a Sunday morning. They constantly criticize me for being online and staying up late. How can I make them stop?

—Enough on My Plate

Dear Enough: You can't make your parents do anything, but you can change your response. Stop asking for permission and stop giving them information they will only lecture you about. If they criticize you, say, "Thanks for your opinion," and then do whatever you want. They eventually will stop expecting to have so much influence on you. Meanwhile, please ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist who can help with your depression.

Dear Annie: My husband and I were saddened by "Arizona," who complained about an obese man who works in his yard. Maybe if she got to know the man, she would find a wonderful human being inside this body. My obese friends are so much more than their weight, and for some of them, it takes great courage to carry on because of people with "Arizona's" attitude.

I think it's wonderful this man feels comfortable enough in his own skin to be out gardening and creating beauty. Perhaps instead of closing the blinds, she could open her heart.

—Thin in Camarillo

Dear Camarillo: Stereotyping people on the basis of their looks is always a bad idea and precludes developing some wonderful friendships. Thanks for saying so.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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