DEAR ABBY: My wife is a wonderful woman who did a great job of rearing our large family, but our house was often too cluttered to suit my mother who, in those years, was judgmental and critical of my wife.
Years later, things have changed. My father passed away, the kids are grown and gone, and my mother is growing more lonely and needy every day. She now wants to spend time with us, but because she never developed a close friendship with my wife, my wife tolerates her but doesn't welcome her.
I love them both, but I'm becoming frustrated having to constantly choose and juggle schedules so I can keep Mom's feelings from getting hurt. Abby, please tell mothers-in-law to build bridges while they can. Someday it may be too late. But any advice for me? -- SPREAD THIN IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR SPREAD THIN: Your cautionary tale deserves space in my column. When your wife joined the family, instead of building bridges, your mother dynamited them. It's not surprising your wife feels the way she does at the prospect of spending time with her mother-in-law. Of course, while some degree of compromise is necessary, your mother should also be encouraged to find activities and contemporaries whose company she can enjoy without expecting you to entertain her. And the person to do that is you.