Independent Living

2/12/2024 | By Amy Dickinson

A man is concerned about the home repair project his ailing father-in-law wants “help” with. See what columnist Amy Dickinson advises.

Dear Amy: 

My wife and I have been married for more than 20 years. I’ve known her folks for even longer than that, and we have a really good relationship.

Her parents live nearby.

My father-in-law was a pretty talented “Mr. Fixit” back in the day, but he is almost 80 now and has various physical ailments that really limit his abilities.

My in-laws’ back deck is in poor repair and is increasingly unsafe. Because of this, they have stopped using the back steps and deck.

This needs to be repaired pretty urgently and I am happy and very able to do this.

The problem is that my father-in-law simply will not allow anyone else to work on his house. He is still under the impression that he can do this work, himself. I know that if I take it on, he will insist on doing the work. He will let me “help” him, however.

I am worried about the dynamic and also concerned about the frustration and worry about doing this project with him. I’m concerned about his safety and don’t want him to injure himself.

Because of this, I’m thinking about dodging this assignment.

Should I?

– Builder

Dear Builder: 

Two men doing carpentry work. For article when an ailing father-in-law wants help with a project

I understand your valid concerns about taking this on. But I think you should take this on, if only because if your father-in-law attempts to do this himself, it could lead to disaster.

Offer yourself as a helper. Assume that this will be frustrating at times.

Sit down together and come up with a plan. Go together to choose materials from your home improvement store. Ask him, “Will you let me do the heavy lifting and physical stuff? Think of me as your subcontractor.” Confer with him and let him supervise the job.

I can imagine a number of ways where this project could go south, but I can also imagine this as being a bonding project between you two men – and I hope it works out that way for both of you.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from a father-in-law who wants help, to angry spouses, and coping with grief as a people pleaser. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson

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