Author Topic: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly  (Read 3442 times)

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snappylt

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When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« on: May 06, 2014, 04:44:51 PM »
One of my favorite out-of-state cousins, "Alice," and I exchange e-mails several times a month.  Sometimes Alice will attach a photo to an e-mail.  The photos she sends are almost always taken by her husband, "Ralph," so of course Ralph rarely appears in a photo.

Well, last week Alice sent me a recent snapshot of herself and Ralph standing together at a party.

Ralph looks like he has aged significantly since I last saw them at a family reunion four years ago.  (OK, I know everyone grows older, and indeed, Alice looks the tiniest bit older in that photo. But Ralph looks like he has aged fifteen or twenty years, not four years.)

I'm thinking that there is no way I can politely inquire specifically about Ralph's health, right?

Honestly, Ralph looks like maybe he's been seriously ill... and that makes me feel badly that I didn't realize he was so ill.  I searched old e-mails to see if there was a clue I missed, and there was only one reference 3 years ago about Ralph having had an unnamed "procedure" scheduled, but then having canceled it at the last moment. I had responded by wishing him well, but then I guess I never asked any specific follow-up questions about the "procedure" and about whether he had indeed rescheduled it.  And Alice never mentioned it again.

I know it would be crude and rude to comment upon Ralph's appearance (and I won't do that), but is there anything that is polite to say when I e-mail Alice, beyond my usual "Hope you and Ralph are well"?

SingActDance

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2014, 04:48:48 PM »
I fear anything beyond that will make you sound nosy. It could be something they don't want to talk about, or it could be nothing at all. I'd let it go.
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JenJay

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2014, 04:49:35 PM »
I wouldn't. Either he's just not aging well or he's ill and she doesn't want to talk about it.

Two Ravens

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2014, 05:38:17 PM »
I think you could ask after him casually. "So how's Ralph doing? Is he still planning on taking out the boat this summer/into model trains/obsessed with the NY Jets?"

That gives her an opening to mention any news about him, but doesn't look like prying.

Hmmmmm

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2014, 06:38:17 PM »
I'd respond back. "Thanks for the photo of you guys. I haven't seen Jack in years. Hope he's doing well too." And it gives her an opening to bring up an illness if she wishes.

LifeOnPluto

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2014, 11:23:42 PM »
I've heard that people tend to age in plateaus... meaning that they might look the same for several years, then have a sudden "age spurt".

I personally wouldn't say anything, although I don't think asking "How's [husband] doing these days?" (or something) is rude.

Luci

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2014, 11:31:57 PM »
I've heard that people tend to age in plateaus... meaning that they might look the same for several years, then have a sudden "age spurt".

I personally wouldn't say anything, although I don't think asking "How's [husband] doing these days?" (or something) is rude.

That is what I have noticed. My dad, for example looked the same age for about 10 years, the he suddenly seemed to age those years 6 monrhs. It was weird. No specific illness; just age.

I have seen it with us, too.

cicero

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2014, 11:38:10 PM »
There's a difference between aging ( even taking "age spurts" into account) and looking significantly I'll. Is there someone else in the family you could ask? Alice's sister? When I was very I'll about 15 years ago, I didn't go around telling everyone but I didn't hide it either, and word "got around" so I had a number of relatives who were in contact with me (" how you feeling/thinking of you" kind of contact) during that time.

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CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2014, 12:11:09 AM »
You don't have to ask specifically about Ralph's health, but you can ask "How's Ralph doing?"  Nothing rude about that at all.
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BeagleMommy

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2014, 03:12:24 PM »
I think the only thing you could say is "how is Ralph doing?".  Unless they mention something specific saying something like "Is Ralph doing okay, he looks ill" is going to cause problems.

ladyknight1

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2014, 08:43:15 AM »
I agree with other posters, a general "how have you and Ralph been?" is the best way to let them know you care and then they can choose to share or not.

pinkflamingo

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2014, 05:45:37 PM »
I agree with everyone else that you can politely inquire after Ralph in the hopes of gaining more information.

I have to ask--has he lost weight since you last saw him? A friend of mine lost a lot of weight in a relatively short amount of time and appeared as if he had aged fifteen years in the process. Another possibility is that your memory of Ralph is perhaps a bit airbrushed so that the reality is jarring.

TootsNYC

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Re: When a relative's appearance changes unexpectledly
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2014, 05:46:39 PM »
I've heard that people tend to age in plateaus... meaning that they might look the same for several years, then have a sudden "age spurt".

I personally wouldn't say anything, although I don't think asking "How's [husband] doing these days?" (or something) is rude.

That is what I have noticed. My dad, for example looked the same age for about 10 years, the he suddenly seemed to age those years 6 monrhs. It was weird. No specific illness; just age.

I have seen it with us, too.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who has noticed this plateau/acceleration thing.

Children do it. Middle-aged people do it. Everybody does it.