DEAR AMY: My son, who is in his early 30s, has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a terminal illness. Many people know about his illness, but my parents do not know. They can see that he is not well since his body is losing many functions.
My parents observe these symptoms, but now that we have a definite diagnosis we worry about informing my parents about their grandson. They have asked me if he will ever get better, but I didn't give them a yes-or-no answer.
My parents are in their 80s, and although very mentally "with it," their physical health is not great, and they tend to get upset easily and take bad information very hard. Recently my mother landed in the hospital with an anxiety attack.
They are also not easy to fool. They suspect people try to keep bad news from them and are very alert to all that happens around them.
I think we should relate the unfortunate diagnosis. Others in the family believe that, by informing them of a terminal diagnosis, we are not only taking away any hope from them, but opening the possibility of a very negative medical impact on them.
I am also concerned that someday someone may slip or my parents may find out on their own, so I feel that it is best to tell them.
Should we just proceed as we have been doing and not say anything, or should we tell them — and if so, how?
— Sad Mother
DEAR SAD: My thoughts are with you and your son. You don't say what he wants to do, but you should do what is best for him — and for you. If your son tells you he doesn't have the strength to deal with his grandparents' stress, then absolutely shield him from it.
However, I believe that most people are able to adjust to a tough outcome if they know the truth but also have a positive function to perform. In your case, you might say, "Steve has ALS. He is heading down a very challenging road because this is a progressive disease. He will do best if he has our love and support and a positive attitude. Can you help by accepting this, not worrying too much and cheering him on?"
DEAR AMY: A year ago, my loving son (who is an excellent optometrist in a town an hour away) became very upset with me when I used a local optometrist.
I used the local optometrist because I knew my son was overwhelmed. I explained to him that I was trying to make life simpler for him as I knew he would find a way to see me during his lunch hour or after-hours.
He was upset about this for a long time and said I had really hurt his feelings by not using him. We moved on and do not discuss it anymore.
After a year, I need to get my eyes checked again; they need more and more attention.
What should I do? Go back to my son (who is now as busy as ever) or use a local optometrist? This may seem like a minor problem, but I am at a loss.
DEAR FARSIGHTED: You must do what is best for your own health. Your son has already been honest, and you may have to accept his hurt feelings as a simple reality and realize that you cannot practically do anything about it. He may feel less slighted if you ask him for a local referral, but do not bow to pressure — actual or perceived. As a son (and health care provider), he should support your best interests.
DEAR AMY: "Broke Student" had parents who were funding her education and housing. Now she wondered why they wouldn't happily pay her rent while she moved in with her boyfriend.
It's a fact of life that "fair is fair." If the parents pay, they get to dictate the terms.
— Avid Reader
DEAR READER: It is unreasonable for "Broke Student" to expect her parents to pay for something they don't believe in.
Send questions via e-mail to email@example.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.