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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: As a child, I adored my grandparents. I couldn't wait until Sundays when we would go to their house and spend all day with them. My grandparents have now passed on, and I have my own children.

I now live in a different state and many miles from my family. When we visit my parents, I leave their home with the feeling they felt our time with them was "bothersome." My parents wave my kids outside when they would rather stay inside where their grandparents are. They make comments about my children's behavior, such as "too excited" or "they're hyperactive." My children are NOT hyper. They are excited to see family members they haven't seen all year.

I thought having grandchildren was something special. Instead, after they spend a mere two hours with us, I get the impression my parents have had enough. They are not old. They are only in their mid-60s.

I am tired of traveling halfway across the United States to visit my family and leaving for home feeling we outstayed our welcome. We stay in a hotel and rent our own car. We are doing all we can to make our visits easy for everyone.

I am angry and hope this is published in their local newspaper for them to see. What has happened to grandparents today? At one time, grandchildren were a treasure. It breaks my heart. -- DISAPPOINTED DAUGHTER, HOPEDALE, MASS.

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Your parents are giving you a message you should heed. Whether your children are hyperactive or simply high-spirited, their antics are too much for their grandparents to cope with.

It would be wonderful if your parents lived up to your ideal of how they "should" be. However, at this point, they are not likely to change. Harboring anger will not improve the situation.

Keep your family visits as short and sweet as possible. Explain to your exuberant children that their grandparents are no longer used to having children around, so they must be on their very best behavior when visiting.

Your parents may bond and enjoy a warm relationship with your children when they are older. Hold a good thought.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to share a sweet and unusual experience I had with a stranger while Christmas shopping last year.

The cashier totaled my merchandise and said it came to $28.60. I handed her my credit card, but it didn't register in the machine. I gave her another card. It, too, didn't work. The cashier said something must be wrong with the machine.

A lady standing behind me asked the cashier, "How much was that?" The cashier told her and the lady said, "I'll take care of it," and handed her $30. I was astounded! I said, "Lady, don't do that. I'm able to pay for this." She said, "I'm sure you are, but I want to give it to you as a Christmas present."

The cashier handed her the change and the sales slip, which she gave to me in case I needed to return the merchandise.

I was so stunned I didn't get her name or address. I want to tell her how much the gift was appreciated by both me and my wife. -- THANKFUL TEXAN

DEAR THANKFUL: I'm printing your letter, but you didn't have to ask her name. It's evident: She was Mrs. Santa Claus.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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