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."