DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have had cats for a long time. We have a granddaughter who is 11 years old. She has recently developed an allergy to cats. She used to visit often, but her parents say she and her sister are no longer allowed to come to our house.
I know that sleeping over is probably out. But couldn't she take some medication or do something else that would allow her to come for Thanksgiving or Christmas? At most, it would mean coming over for two or three hours every few months. We have a big house, so the cat could be put in one of the upstairs bedrooms while she is here.
Their house is a long drive, and we are getting older. We are in our 70s. -- Miss My Grandchildren, Glenview, Ill.
DEAR MISS MY GRANDCHILDREN: I feel your pain -- and theirs. As someone who is severely allergic to cats, I fully understand why the parents decided not to allow the children to come to your home.
As clean as your home may be, pet dander is nearly impossible to remove completely. Putting the cat upstairs doesn't eliminate its lingering presence throughout the house. For some people, simply walking in the door of a space that has cats triggers a serious reaction in their bodies.
Can your granddaughter take some kind of medication? Maybe. You can ask her parents if they could visit the doctor and find out if there's a way she can visit you without compromising her breathing. But if the parents don't want to do that, perhaps they can schedule regular times to pick up you and your husband to come and visit with them. That way, you wouldn't have to endure the long drive and could still be with your precious grandchildren.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My cousin moved to my town about a year ago, and she has been living with a friend. She needs a new apartment or someplace to stay. She hasn't directly asked me, but I think she wants to. I'm sure my husband would not want to do this. We don't have much room in our small apartment.
But I keep thinking of my grandmother. She used to take in everybody in the family if they needed food or shelter. Am I being selfish by not inviting my cousin to live with us for a while? -- Troubled Relative, East Orange, N.J.
DEAR TROUBLED RELATIVE: It used to be that families took in loved ones, no questions asked, for as long as needed. Some families continue to do that today. This does not mean that you are required to do so.
You must talk with your husband and make a family decision about how you can support your cousin. If she is in desperate need, you could consider inviting her to stay with you for a limited, specific period. You could help her find housing. Or you could just stay close to make sure she is OK during her search. Do what works for you, but do remain connected to her.