DEAR ABBY: I'm an only child. My parents moved three miles from my husband and me after our first daughter was born. They were determined not to miss a minute of her life.
Mom's life has always been centered around Dad, my daughters and me. She has never approved of my husband because he didn't finish college and enlisted in the military, unlike Dad, who has two master's degrees and retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander. She regards my husband as the "sperm donor," and that's about all the credit he gets.
Mom isn't happy about anything unless she's complaining. She resents that we spend part of Dad's birthday with my husband's family -- never mind that it's the anniversary of his father's death. She has tried to discipline my daughters based on their grades, even though we have told her that her job is to "spoil them," and it's our job to discipline them.
My husband now refuses to set foot in my parents' home, and I dread the next event that will put them together in the same place. I have asked them to agree to disagree for my sake and my girls, but both feel "justified" in their feelings. I feel as though I must make a choice between the two. Please help. -- TORN IN TWO
DEAR TORN: Since you must make a choice, choose your husband. If you don't, you stand a good chance of being a divorced mother of two with overbearing parents judging every move you and your daughters make for the foreseeable future. Your parents owe you and your husband an apology for the way they have treated him, and frankly, you need to distance yourself from them until you are strong enough to establish some adult boundaries.
DEAR ABBY: I was recently diagnosed with cancer. The support I have received from friends and family has been wonderful. However, I have a challenge.
A friend from work who is a cancer survivor has solicited money from other co-workers on my behalf. I didn't know she had done it, but if I had, I certainly would not have condoned it. My husband and I are well-off, and my company's health insurance is adequate for my medical expenses.
My friend keeps trying to find ways to spend the collected money on me. Unfortunately, she buys things I neither want nor need. I'm so uncomfortable with this entire situation that I don't know what to do. How would you handle this? -- EMBARRASSED BY THE ATTENTION
DEAR EMBARRASSED: I'd ask the friend for a list of the names of the people who contributed so I could thank them for their thoughtfulness and generosity. And when I got it, I would nicely tell her that, while I appreciate her collecting the money, I do not need it and I want it returned to the donors. Then I would write each of the donors a short, personal note explaining the situation and expressing my gratitude.
DEAR ABBY: Sometimes my secretary says things like, "I could just kill myself" or, "Just shoot me!" Abby, my son took his life by shooting himself two years ago. She knows what happened because we live in a small town.
I don't know what to say when I hear her utter those phrases, but it feels like someone has reached in and torn a piece of my heart out. Have you any advice for me? -- STILL GRIEVING FOR MY SON
DEAR STILL GRIEVING: Your secretary's level of insensitivity is astonishing. Since it appears she hasn't a clue, the next time she says it -- and she will -- tell her emphatically not to do it again because of the tragedy your family has experienced firsthand involving guns and suicide. If that doesn't shame her into watching her mouth, nothing will.