Dear Annie: I was married for 30 years before my husband passed away five years ago of colon cancer. During his 18 months of treatment, he was hospitalized four times for surgeries and infections, and each was followed by weeks of recuperation at home. I communicated almost daily with his parents, who lived in our town, and I assumed they conveyed the information to his brother, who also lived here, and to a sister in another state.

My in-laws did not provide any assistance with my husband's care, but I was fortunate to have good friends who helped out. After his death, communication with my husband's family became almost nonexistent. Without my calls, letters, cards and flowers, I'm convinced there would be no relationship at all.

Within the past three years, my in-laws have moved away, which means there is even less communication, and my brother-in-law has made it clear to me and my children that he has issues with us and no interest in maintaining contact. My sister-in-law sends a Christmas card, but that's about it, even though I have tried to see her several times when I have been in her town and have called her often.

My attempts to remain part of this family (for the sake of my children) constantly hit brick walls. Not only are we still grieving over the loss of my husband, but it is additionally hurtful that we no longer have a relationship with his family. We miss them very much. What can I do? —Widow in Florida

Dear Widow: How terribly sad that in their grief, your in-laws are willing to lose touch with you and your children. You cannot force them to be more interested, but we hope you will not drop all contact. You don't need to put yourself through hoops, but please continue to send appropriate cards with pictures of the children and make the occasional phone call. We hope they will someday realize what they have lost and come around, and it will help if you have kept a candle burning.

Dear Annie: My neighbor is a sweet old lady, but I can't get her to stop feeding my dog through the fence despite my telling her repeatedly that the dog has allergies and the vet has him on a strict diet.

I even gave her a bag of vet-prescribed dog treats that he can have once a day, but she gave him the whole week's worth in the first 24 hours and then went back to feeding him table scraps.

My neighbor is very sneaky and stubborn. The dog, of course, adores her. I can't keep him inside all day. Can I get a court order for this sort of thing? —Victim of Guerilla War

Dear Victim: You would need to speak to a lawyer to see if a court order is worth pursuing. Meanwhile, tell your mule-headed neighbor one more time that the dog has allergies and the snacks she insists on feeding him could do terrible harm. Inform her that if the animal becomes sick, you will be sending her the veterinary bill and possibly suing her for damages. You also might consider putting up a tall, solid fence that she can't stick her fingers through.


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