DEAR ABBY: My "Aunt Maude," whom I dearly love, visits me once a month to do some shopping -– in my pantry. She lives 40 miles away and comes over with a shopping bag she fills with canned goods as well as paper products.
My husband is furious about it, and remarked that if Aunt Maude was in financial distress, there would be no problem. However, she owns rental properties and is financially secure. He calls her a parasite and a vulture for taking advantage of a younger relative with a heart of gold. He has threatened many times to put a lock on the pantry door to prevent such thievery, and he finally did, installing a strong lock and keeping the keys.
During her next visit, Aunt Maude, after making some small talk, went to the pantry only to find it locked and barred to her. In short order, she said she had to visit another relative and left. Now she refuses to visit me.
Abby, I know what she was doing was wrong, but she did bring me news of the family and I enjoyed her company. What can I do to repair the damage and make her feel at home, without her grabbing the goodies from my pantry? My husband told me the minute he hears she's on the way to visit us, the pantry door will be locked again. Any advice? –- SAD NIECE, SAN ANTONIO
DEAR SAD NIECE: If coming into the house of relatives and raiding the pantry is considered acceptable behavior in your family, you should make that clear to your husband. If it's not, then it's time you opened your own direct line of communication with your relatives so that you no longer have to "ransom" news of them from your dysfunctional aunt.
You might send her a gift basket filled with the kinds of goodies she's been stealing from your pantry, and hope she'll accept your conciliatory gesture -– but I can't guarantee the result.
DEAR ABBY: We have a question about what to say when we take our adult children and their spouses out to dinner when we visit them in another state. These people range in age from 39 to 55 and have been on their own for years.
We don't appreciate it when they order more than one cocktail before dinner, so what could we say that would be nonconfrontational, but convey to them that we don't want to support their drinking habit? -– DEVOTED PARENTS, SOMEWHERE
DEAR DEVOTED PARENTS: There is no need to be confrontational. Simply tell your "children" before dinner that you will pay for only one round of drinks –- and after that, if they choose to imbibe, they should ask for a separate check.
DEAR ABBY: Can you stand one more comment concerning "unattended" children?
I was co-owner of an antique store. My partners and I decided to put up a sign that read, "All Unattended Children Will Be Given a Free Kitten."
Abby, the look of panic on the parents' faces was priceless! We had some tiny fabric kittens that we gave the children who wanted one -– and we got a lot of laughs from it. –- FAITHFUL READER, SMALL TOWN, TEXAS
DEAR FAITHFUL READER: I think you came up with a purr-fect solution, and it's certainly friendlier than the sign other readers reported: "Unattended Children Will Be Sold as Slaves."
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