DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have worked hard all our lives and raised three wonderful children. She's retired now, but still works part time at another job. I plan to retire in three years. We are at a point in our lives that we can take weekend trips and one or two vacations a year. It's our way of unwinding and enjoying each other.
The problem? My mother. Dad died a few years ago and Mom thinks everyone should think only of her. I am the oldest of three brothers and, trust me, Abby, all of us in the family do far more for her than most families would. That doesn't stop Mom from throwing hints around about feeling left out when my wife and I don't include her in our getaways.
Mom is on the go all the time, but to hear her tell it, she sits at home by herself day after day. When we call her, all she does is complain that no one ever calls or comes to see her. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have a schedule so that someone in the family calls her every morning and afternoon. Help! -- FRUSTRATED SON IN NASHVILLE
DEAR SON: Your mother may be shoveling the guilt your way, but why are you taking it to heart? Complaining may be her way of making conversation. Don't make excuses and don't take it personally. And if you want to include her occasionally, by all means do so.
DEAR ABBY: I recently married a wonderful woman with an adorable, energetic 3-year-old daughter.
My concern is my wife's mother, "Julia." She's a fine mother/mother-in-law, and the greatest grandmother in the world, but she harbors an intense dislike for my wife's ex-husband, "Trevor." Every time Trevor's name is mentioned, Julia says something negative about him. She refuses to talk to him or be in his presence. If she happens to be at our home when Trevor comes to pick up his daughter for visitation, she'll leave the room and go to a back bedroom.
Everyone in the family has discussed this with Julia, including my wife's grandmother. However, every time we raise the subject, she becomes angry at us.
While my wife and her ex were not good as a couple, this man has been nothing but a loving, patient and supportive father. He shows up on time, almost never cancels, pays his child support in full -- and my stepdaughter is always excited to see him.
My concern is that my mother-in-law's anger toward Trevor will eventually confuse my stepdaughter. Although she is young now, there will come a time when she'll be old enough to know something is wrong. What can be done, Abby? -- JEFF IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR JEFF: Lay down the law to Julia. Tell her she must keep her feelings about the child's father to herself. There is no reason the child should be subjected to this. If Julia cannot comply, she should plan ahead to be elsewhere when visitation is scheduled.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600