Brother stays at arm’s length

Dear Annie: I have a problem with my brother, “Josh.” Josh seems to want to cut me and our mom out of his life. I’m indifferent to how much contact I have with my brother, but Mom is not. Josh is having surgery in a few days, and though he didn’t directly state it, it’s clear that he would prefer we not be at the hospital during the surgery. Seeing as he doesn’t want us at the hospital, we’re staying home. Josh’s wife will call or text Mom with information about the surgery. This is causing her a great deal of mental anguish.

This is not the first time he has caused her pain. In the last year of our father’s life, when Dad’s illness was getting progressively worse, Mom asked him to come and visit Dad. He rarely visited, and when I could get him to visit, I had to practically beg him to come. The last time Dad went in the hospital, Josh went to Easter brunch with his in-laws before coming to the hospital. Several years ago, when Mom was in the hospital, Josh traveled through the city and failed to stop and see her. His own mother was in the hospital, and he couldn’t be bothered to stop and see her!

Josh keeps us at arm’s length. He refuses to tell us information that is important to us and easy for him to disclose, such as what hotel he and his wife are staying at the night before the surgery. (The hospital is three hours from their home.) He often does not answer our phone calls or texts. He often returns them hours or a day later.

I’m sure I have made mistakes when dealing with my brother, and he does tell us about some of his daughter’s upcoming activities, which we then have attended. He and his wife did have us come to their home on Christmas Day. However, I can see how much pain he is causing our mom, and I’m not sure what to do. Should I try talking to him? If so, what should I say? Should I just accept the pain he causes our mother? Are there other options? I just wish I knew why he tries to avoid Mom. — Unsure What to Do

Dear Unsure: One thing is for sure, and that is that you and Josh need to have an honest and straightforward conversation. Try not to criticize him or bring up past grievances, and in the end, respect his wishes in regard to the family. In the long run, if he feels understood by his mother and brother, he is likelier to come around for visits. But you also should help your mom to see that Josh has a new life with his own family and that what you are getting now may be all that he wants to give. Help her to feel gratitude for what Josh does give and she is likely to get more of it, reducing the mental anguish that is causing her so much pain.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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