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DEAR ABBY: We visit my grandmother out of state once a year. After our visits, I usually leave feeling defeated. A few reasons why:

She leaves multiple notes around "reminding" us to clean up after ourselves. There's a note in the shower that says, "Please wipe down shower walls after use." She asks me to change the sheets or launder our towels before I leave. Although she has decorative paper hand towels in the bathrooms, she asks us not to use them because they are "too expensive." She complains about my son's handprints on her windows (he's 2). She badmouths nearly everyone she knows, has unsolicited advice on everything and is generally highly judgmental.

When we return home, she gushes about our visit for months, saying how "lonely" she is now that we're gone and how much she enjoyed our visit. I don't understand. Is this normal grandmother behavior, or does she take it too far? Must we continue spending big bucks to go out there every year, or can we just send pictures and call often? -- GRANDDAUGHTER IN A QUANDARY

DEAR GRANDDAUGHTER: If these annual visits are a "command performance," I can see why you might resent them. However, it's not unheard of for a hostess to leave a note asking that the shower be wiped down, or that the sheets and towels be laundered before a guest leaves -- particularly if the guests are family members. A gracious guest wouldn't mind doing those things, and would ask how her hostess wanted it handled before she left.

Rather than stew when she complained about your 2-year-old's handprints on her windows, the appropriate response would have been: "You know, you're right. I'll get the Windex!" And when she made a negative comment about someone, you should have found something nice to say about the person in response.

If these visits cause financial hardship, visit your grandmother every OTHER year, or consider inviting her to visit you, but don't cut her off completely. After all, she's family, and not all family members are "perfect."


Pesky Poll Takers Disturb Woman Living Alone

DEAR ABBY: I'm a newly retired woman living alone. Today I received a phone call on my landline asking me to participate in a survey. The first question asked was how many people are in my household.

In the past, I didn't live alone and I didn't mind participating in surveys. But calling on my landline makes me worry that person has access to my physical address. And being asked by some stranger for information like my age, the number of people in my household, and whether I have guns in the house, etc. makes me feel very vulnerable.

I told the caller I was not interested in participating and wouldn't give a reason why. There has got to be a better way to conduct surveys. Please let researchers know. -- CAUTIOUS SENIOR

DEAR CAUTIOUS: I'm doing that. But while I'm doing it, I am also advising readers that they are under no obligation to respond to surveys of any type, and that all they have to do if they receive this kind of call is say, "Not interested," and hang up.

Read more in: Health & Safety

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