Dear Annie: Several months ago, my husband and I moved to the Ozarks after falling in love with the area. We left behind a lot of dear friends and the life we had known for 25 years, but we are quite happy here.
The only sadness is my brother. He and his wife still live in the town we left. When I told him we were moving out of state, he said we shouldn't because of our health issues. Yet when I had two major surgeries, he never once bothered to drive the five minutes to the hospital or come by my house afterward. He is retired and sits around the house watching TV. He never offered to help us pack for the move or assist in driving our truck, and I really wanted him to see our new home.
In the nine months we have lived here, my brother has not called one time. I phoned on his birthday and for holidays. Each time, he said he was "thinking of calling." My husband and I have no children. My brother is my only family. He told me a few years ago that he is depressed. I am sure it began when his best friend died. He did get medication from his doctor, but it obviously did little good.
I am hurt that my big brother has written me off. We never got together much when we lived in the same town, but at least he would call once in a while and come by for coffee on occasion.
I have decided that the next move is up to him. My husband has been supportive, but even he does not know how badly I am hurting. He doesn't have any siblings. I know of nothing that will make my brother call me, so I can only sit here and hope. Any suggestions? - Hurting Little Sis in Branson, Mo.
Dear Hurting: You are expecting a great deal from a brother who apparently suffers from depression and has never been good at staying in touch. He may believe you abandoned him by moving away. In most sibling relationships, one sibling is better at maintaining ties. It's your choice whether to continue to initiate contact, but we hope you will. We think he misses you, even though he doesn't show it the way you'd like.
Dear Annie: "Concerned Old Man in West Hills" doesn't understand why it is rude to tell his niece that she is fat. I have a different perspective.
If the niece was a slim girl up to a point and then started to pack on the pounds, she may have been sexually abused. The weight is an unconscious attempt to appear less attractive.
I was abused when I was 7 years old. I gained weight and wore shape-blurring clothing because I wanted to be invisible. My family members labeled me lazy and said I didn't care about my appearance. Every bite of food came with scrutiny from tablemates. I knew I was an embarrassment to my family.
If you see this sort of transformation in a close friend or family member, be kind. If you can do so in a gentle way, ask us why we seem to be sad and withdrawn. - Grandma Whose Inner Child Is Shattered
Dear Grandma: Thank you for mentioning this possibility. Many abused children, both male and female, react by "hiding" themselves in this way. We hope family and friends will pay attention to these changes and see what's really going on.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.