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by Abigail Van Buren

In Laws Blame Son's Wife for Keeping His Distance

DEAR ABBY: Last year I took time from work to assist my mother-in-law who was facing surgery in another state. During my visit, her next-door neighbor told me my visit was a "positive sign." When I asked what he meant, he said my in-laws had told him that I had kept their son from visiting and having a relationship with them since we married more than 15 years ago.

Abby, I was stunned! The truth is, my husband calls or visits his mother only when I insist on it. I have even dialed their number and put the phone in his hand so he HAD to talk to them. He feels closer to my family and enjoys the time we spend with them.

I told my husband what the neighbor said. He dismissed it and said his parents are just unhappy people. Abby, should I tell my in-laws the truth, or let them continue to believe I am responsible for driving a wedge between their son and them? -- PUZZLED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

DEAR DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: Blaming you for the distance between them and their son may be an easier pill to swallow than placing the blame where it belongs. However, I see nothing to be gained by telling them "the truth" at this late date. They probably wouldn't believe you if you did.

DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter about the college student whose grandmother blatantly favored her other grandchildren, yet expected him to do chores around her house. I loved the irony of the woman who responded. She said her mother was also treated badly, but the grandmother left her entire fortune to them. There's no cash inheritance in my life, but I wouldn't trade what I learned for any amount of money.

My mother was the child of a failed first marriage. I realized when my grandmother died that she had never told my mom or me that she loved us. At her funeral, I heard stories from my half-cousins of hugs, kisses, declarations of love, shopping trips, lunches and sleep-overs. In my entire life, she took me to lunch and shopping once. Period.

Through my mother's love and assurance, I realized the problem was my grandmother's, not mine. More important, I learned from my mother's example:

(1) Tell your family often that you love them.

(2) Forgive and forget; don't hold a grudge.

(3) Tell the truth with love and tact.

(4) Treat people with respect and kindness -- even when it isn't returned.

(5) Your grandmother can be a bitter, hateful woman, but you don't have to follow in her footsteps.

(6) Life isn't always fair, but it can be wonderful in spite of it.

Abby, I am grateful that I carefully watched my grandmother when I was growing up because I learned at a young age what I did NOT want to be. -- KAREN IN SALT LAKE CITY

DEAR KAREN: You are an intelligent woman who was able to take a bitter lesson and turn it into a growth experience. Most people are not so wise. I commend you for it.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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