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Jewish Journal

Dear Deborah

by Deborah Berger

July 23, 1998 | 8:00 pm


Dear Deborah,

What do you do when your boss is crude, rude andplain obnoxious? He smells of cigars and alcohol after lunch, hehacks and spits, he shouts at me and others, and he uses foullanguage. Everything about him makes me cringe. Do you think I shouldanonymously place a book about manners on his desk? Any othersuggestions?

Cringing Assistant

Dear Cringing,

A manners book for your boss would be about aseffective as Prozac on a rhododendron. Therefore, the only viablesuggestion is to hit the classifieds. Somewhere there exists a betteremployer-employee match.


Dying Mother's Wish

Dear Deborah,

My wife and I have not seen or spoken with ouronly child for 17 years. Twenty years ago, she married a non-Jew, andthey both became born-again Christians. They have three children Ihave never seen. This has been the worst thing ever to happen to us,a daily curse for all these years. My wife and I have shed bittertears over this, and we are in a constant state of mourning for ourbeautiful daughter. My wife has never snapped out of the depressioncaused by this.

In the first couple of years after they married,we tried to have a relationship with her (not him), but every singletime, she tried to proselytize, always pushing Christian pamphletsand books at us. She still occasionally mails us letters, pleadingwith us to be saved --but we stopped opening them and have them"returned to sender." So we cut her out of our lives because seeingher was more painful than if she had died.

Now my wife has cancer. The doctor says that shehas up to a year or so, and we are trying to decide whether or not tocontact our daughter. My wife would like to see her, and, of course,I cannot object to her wishes. But I worry that seeing our daughterwill make her worse and drain her of the strength to fight thedisease. I worry that our daughter will try even harder to "save" herdying mother.

What is your opinion on this?

S.L.

Dear S.L.,

Sadly, you are probably correct in expecting thatyour daughter will not stop trying to "save" her mother -- especiallynow; however, it seems that you may have to risk it in order to grantyour wife her wish to see your daughter.

It would be wise to do some advance planningbefore your daughter and wife meet. Phone or write her, asking her tomeet you in a public place. Going to her home, seeing yourgrandchildren for the first time would be absolutely fraught. If sheis willing to meet you, you must calmly inform her of her mother'scondition.

State that her mother wishes to see her, but shemay only visit if she agrees -- no, promises -- to honor the FifthCommandment by respecting your religion, wishes and the state of yourwife's condition. Set clear boundaries for the visit: 1) noproselytizing; 2) no discussing religion; 3) no bringing or sendingChristian literature. Explain that if she does not honor theserequests, she will be immediately asked to leave.

If your daughter agrees to the terms, the rupturemay begin to heal -- to some degree. The past and its effects cannotbe erased, but perhaps this meeting will grant your wife some peacebecause she will have seen her daughter -- for better or worse. Theblank space will be filled, and with hope, now that your daughter isherself a mother, she will have matured enough to respect her dyingmother's wish.

If, however, your daughter does not agree to theseterms, you must step aside and respect your wife's wishes, exercisinggreat patience, no matter what ensues, because, ultimately, this isyour wife's choice. It will be a difficult and poignant meeting, andat the very least, your wife may experience an important, if painful,moment of connection with her child.

One last piece of advice. When all is said anddone between your daughter and wife, you still must face your ownrelationship with an only child. Your actions will have an impactupon the rest of your life. If you have not already found support toshore you up during these difficult times, please do. Support groupsabound for families of a dying spouse. May you find the patience,wisdom and the strength required for this difficult passage.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Dear Deborah,

Do you think parents should respect theirchildren? I am a 16-year-old guy, and my mother still buys clothesand shoes for me and makes me wear them, whether I like them or not.If I say I don't like something, she gets enraged and yells at me forbeing ungrateful. I understand that she is very busy with fourchildren and a job, so when she finds a sale, she'll just buywhatever. But I think that if I am a good kid, decent student andhelpful at home, I should be able to choose what I want to wear, aslong as it's not too weird or expensive, don't you?

PO'd in L.A.

Dear PO'd,

Time for The Big Talk with your mother, eh? Callattention to the importance of the subject by asking for "a talk"with her. If she is repeatedly unavailable or too busy, write her aletter.

In the talk (or letter), let her know that youwould like to choose your own clothing from now on and why. Proposethat she give you a budget for the year divided by three forSeptember, January and summer, assuring her that you will not exceedthis amount even by a dime. Let her know that should you make amistake and end up losing a jacket or needing a new pair of shoes,you will get a small job baby-sitting or shlepping to subsidize yourbudget. Assure her that your clothing choices will adhere toagreed-upon standards of appropriateness and that she will haveultimate veto power.

If she's a reasonable and wise parent, she willrecognize that this approach will build maturity throughresponsibility. If for some reason, she is unable to see the logic ofthis solution, get a job, man -- AND SHOW HER THE MONEY.


Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters to Dear Deborah require a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com

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