04/12/2009DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law passed away in 2002 and had a friend I'll call "Roy," who was his skiing buddy. This "friend" now comes to Canada every winter for a 10-day vacation. He expects us to drive him to his destination two hours away, over icy roads and at times blizzard-like conditions, leave him there for a week, return the following weekend at night, stay the weekend and then host him for two to three days.
Abby, this is a busy time of year for me. It is not our vacation time. My husband thinks it's no big deal, but I feel differently. I have tried to get my husband to stop this "chauffeur" duty back and forth each year, to no avail. This year, Roy will be spending an extra two nights at our home. I am too busy to entertain, cook meals, etc. Please advise! -- TRAPPED IN CALGARY
DEAR TRAPPED: Look at it this way. To your husband, Roy is a living link to his deceased father. That may be the reason he does not regard Roy's annual visits as an imposition.
Because you do, and you need to concentrate on your business, encourage your husband to take Roy to the slopes, spend the weekend with him and bring him home. Playing hostess for a night or two shouldn't be too much to ask -- and the bulk of the load will be off your shoulders.
DEAR ABBY: My parents are in their 70s. Both are generous and loving. Over the years Mom has refused to accept any act of generosity or gift, large or small, from any of her children. This includes birthdays, their anniversary and all major holidays. In the past, she would return our gifts to the mall.
In recent years we have resorted to giving her and Dad gift cards or food because they can't be returned. Each time we do we get a lecture from her in a reprimanding tone, telling us we "spent too much." (We're a practical clan; we do not spend a lot of money or buy anything lavish.) Following the reprimand, Mother then passes out large checks to each of us and our children.
Aside from the holidays, Mom will not accept a dinner invitation at my home. When one of us hosts a family party, she insists on writing a check to cover the cost of the food. When we're out for an occasional lunch or dinner, she grabs the check and becomes upset if one of us tries to pay for it.
We're all mature adults with good incomes. This quirk of hers has become frustrating and embarrassing. Does Mom have low self-esteem and can't accept an act of generosity, or is she a control freak? If we eliminated the gift-giving, she would still continue doling out the checks. What can we do? -- OVER IT IN RACINE, WIS.
DEAR OVER IT: Your mother is obviously well-fixed. She sees her role as matriarch of your family, and part of that role is being a provider. On some level, she may feel that anything you spend on her would be better spent on yourselves and your children.
The IRS allows a certain amount of money to be given as a gift every year, tax-free. The checks your mother is handing out may be her way of trying to transfer wealth within the family.
My advice is to graciously accept her generosity. At this point you're not going to change your mother. You can, however, change the way you are reacting to her and love her, quirk and all.
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