Dear Annie: Our son, “Colin,” is 19 years old and a sophomore in college. He was always helpful and a good student. Last spring, Colin became rude and condescending. We found out he was living with a 33-year-old man who is infected with HIV. This man was controlling and used sexual blackmail to keep Colin in line. We finally got our son back home, but it was a long, difficult summer.
When Colin announced that he was gay, my husband and I sought advice from several clergy. Most of them said to turn our backs on him until he asked for our forgiveness for living sinfully. We decided instead to take the advice of our priest, who said to accept his orientation, hard as that has been.
All we’ve asked of Colin is that he do well in school, get a job to help pay off the legal bills that resulted from extricating him from his previous relationship and not be sexually promiscuous. Colin contracted various STDs and should avoid sexual contact anyway. Our requests seemed reasonable to us.
Unfortunately, when Colin returned to school, he became sexually involved with at least two different men and even asked to bring one home for the holidays. Of course, we said no.
We could live with his orientation if he would live a moral lifestyle. So far, he has not tested positive for HIV, although that is still a worry. We have told him we will not pay any more medical bills, since we can’t afford it. From the horrible way he treats us, I regret that we were so kind to him over the summer. Counseling didn’t help him see the error of his ways. He is a bad influence on his little sister. How should we handle this? — Heartbroken Parents
Dear Parents: We know Colin’s sexuality is disturbing to you, but try to separate his orientation from his impulsive lifestyle. He is 19 and living away from home for the first time. In college, many children, gay or straight, become sexually active.
Unfortunately, some also are promiscuous, drink too much, do drugs, engage in risky behaviors and otherwise behave like wild animals let loose. Most kids settle down eventually, and the hope is that they don’t do any permanent damage in the interim. Please contact PFLAG (pflag.org) for some emotional support and practical suggestions.
Dear Annie: I have been caring for my disabled husband while working full time and raising two children. I haven’t had time alone in 15 years.
Now my children are grown, and they want to give me a mini-vacation as a gift. They offered to stay with Dad while I go away for a four-day weekend. My husband is upset and says if I truly cared for him, I would not want to get away. He is doing his best to make me feel guilty. Is he being selfish, or am I? — Need a Break
Dear Need: Your husband has become completely dependent on you and fears your absence. All caregivers need to recharge their batteries. Reassure your husband that you love him, that you will come back refreshed, and that the kids will do a wonderful job taking care of him. Then have a great time.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Loving and Missing all at the Same Time,” whose daughter is an inconsiderate slob. When my kids were in high school, I got tired of their stuff scattered all over the house. I said if I found anything lying around when I got up in the morning, I would wake them to put it away. The rub was, I wouldn’t tell them what or where it was. Sometimes, by the time they found it, they were wide awake and irritated.
My daughter was a slow learner. Many days, she would come home and her clothes would be scattered in the front yard. Fortunately, we had understanding neighbors. — Omaha, Neb.