DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, my son and his family moved a couple of hours away. He's my only child. I know he's busy with his wife, two children and his job, but I would like to hear from him more than every two weeks -- or longer -- just to know what is going on in their lives. He told me I could call him, but I feel like I'm imposing. I'd like to be more involved in their lives. I would also like to be closer to my daughter-in-law. We have had a couple of good phone conversations recently, but I sense that she wants her own space.
I'm not an overbearing person, and I'm working on expectations vs. reality, being overly emotional when my expectations are not met and fear of sharing these emotions because I'm afraid my son and his wife won't like what I have to say. I feel they have been pushing me away.
What can I do, other than wait for them to call and work on how not to get upset when they don't include me? They have let the grandchildren stay with me a couple of weeks at different times over the summer. I'm trying to do things with friends, but I really prefer being around my son and family because I feel happier (or used to). It has been heartbreaking. -- WORKING ON IT
DEAR WORKING ON IT: Your son has told you it's all right to call him, so you should. Because of the blessing of modern technology, there are other options as well -- texting, video chat, etc. If you are unfamiliar with them, make it a point to learn. Be grateful your son and his family are independent, and try harder to fill more of your time with hobbies and interests of your own. If you do, you will be a more interesting person to be around. Your son and his wife should not be the focus of your life the way he was when he was a child and you were responsible for him. It isn't healthy for you or your relationship with them.
DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I are in our late 20s and get into arguments about what time to leave a party. I usually need to leave around 11:00 p.m. or midnight, and I think he should leave when I do.
I'm a full-time student with a full-time job, so I don't go out often. Between school and work, I don't have weekends off like he does. He accuses me of being selfish for wanting him to leave. He says he doesn't want to be "lame." I don't think it's appropriate for a woman to leave a party on her own. Am I selfish? Should I try to stay up later so he can have a good time? -- PARTY ETIQUETTE
DEAR PARTY ETIQUETTE: No, your job and your studies have to be your top priority. Years ago, I would have agreed that your fiance should leave with you. However, these days, women are more independent. Cellphones and ride-sharing have given us other options. Unless you are concerned that leaving alone would be dangerous, don't turn it into an argument if he wants to stay.
DEAR ABBY: My father is nearing the end of his life. I'm an only child with no family nearby. When my mother passed away, many people reached out to me, and I know their intent was to comfort me. However, most of the time I ended up comforting them! I would try to escape by saying things like I had a task to take care of, but when people are crying hysterically on the phone or in my kitchen, they don't seem to hear. How can I politely tell people like this that I'm not their therapist, and they are not comforting me? -- TAKING CARE OF DAD
DEAR TAKING CARE: All you need to say is you can't talk right now, and you will call them back later. Period. Then hang up. If someone is having an emotional meltdown in your kitchen, you have the right to tell the person you can't deal with it right now, you'll visit with her -- or him -- "another time," and guide them to the door.
DEAR ABBY: I am a man who has read your column for more than 40 years and have often thought your advice is reasonable, although not always exactly what I would have advised. Now that I'm retired, I find myself composing little "Dear Abby" conversations in my mind as I go through the day and meet small challenges or hear about them from acquaintances. You know what I mean -- what should Tom do about his abusive daughter, how should I address the neighbors' habit of feeding the deer and squirrels, or what should I do with this latest bit of gossip? I literally ask you for guidance, then argue with the advice I think you would give -- sometimes out loud. Is this a sign of creeping insanity or something worse? -- BLABBERING IN MISSOULA
DEAR BLABBERING: It isn't a sign of creeping insanity. It's a sign that you may need another woman in your life besides Dear Abby.
DEAR ABBY: I recently traveled to Germany to help my 19-year-old daughter settle in for her semester of study abroad. I was in tears the entire trip home, not because I was sad to leave her, but because she kept lashing out at me for anything from using a cotton swab to following proper directions exiting the train, to asking simple -- but, in her mind, ridiculous -- questions. This is not new behavior. Her brother has also observed her overreactive behavior to minor things.
I treated her and her roommate to dinners out and stocked her apartment with groceries, in addition to making significant financial contributions toward her tuition. I'm also splitting the cost of her monthly rent with her dad.
I feel hurt, like she regards me as only an ATM. She wouldn't even let me use her European electrical adapter to charge my phone before leaving for the airport.
Should I convey how hurt I feel and, if so, what are your suggestions? I feel if I have a phone conversation, she will sigh, tell me she doesn't have time for this or accuse me of being a killjoy. If I put it in a letter, I'll feel like a coward, but it will allow me to express my feelings without interruption or protest. -- UNAPPRECIATED IN VERMONT
DEAR UNAPPRECIATED: Frankly, I'm surprised you weren't crying because you recognized your part in creating the self-entitled monster your daughter has become. You should have put a stop to it when she first started "overreacting" with rude, insensitive and ungrateful behavior.
By all means write her a letter, and when you do, tell her she behaved shamefully, it was hurtful, and that you will no longer tolerate it. Be sure she understands she will not get another penny until you receive an apology and assurances that you won't be subjected to that kind of abuse again. Continue practicing tough love until you see real changes in your daughter's attitude. It's the only kind of language she will understand.
DEAR ABBY: After 23 years together, my wife, after spending time with her grown children, brought home photos of her deceased former husband. The photos that bother me are the ones in which they are holding hands. He was the stepfather to her now-middle-aged children. They had 19 years together, and he had a daughter who became my wife's stepdaughter.
The stepdaughter posted on social media that she missed her dad. My wife expressed the same feelings and said she thinks about him, too. When my wife posted those sentiments on the internet, everyone could read it. Those pictures and feelings bother me. Am I wrong for being angry about this? -- UPSET IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR UPSET: It's time to grow up and accept that your wife was married -- I presume happily -- before her former husband's death. If you want a healthy marriage, stop competing with a dead man. For her to express solidarity with her former stepdaughter was no reflection on her love for or her marriage to you. Your feelings are not all that unusual, but you are wrong to be angry. If you need reassurance, ask your wife for it, and I'm sure she'll give it to you. Because she once loved another man doesn't mean she doesn't love you.
DEAR ABBY: I have dear friends and neighbors I really enjoy who have asked me to water their plants and feed the cat when they're away, which is not very often. I enjoy doing these things, and so I always feel awkward when they bring home gifts of jewelry or give me money. I would prefer that they let me do these things for love and friendship, but I don't know how to make them stop giving me things.
Is there something polite I can say to let them know that they should just let me be their friend? I would prefer that to feeling as though I'm being paid for my services. -- FOR LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
DEAR FOR LOVE: Has it occurred to you that your neighbors bring things back for you because they enjoy giving as much as you enjoy doing things for them? If it hasn't, please consider it.
And afterward, if you still feel that their gifts are too much of a quid pro quo, explain that you like them very much and value their friendship, and they don't need to give you anything in return for the affection you feel for them. I don't think couching the message in those terms would be rude at all.
DEAR ABBY: Why do people stay in bad marriages? It causes emotional harm to the children (if they have kids), hearing their parents argue and name-call all the time. Wouldn't it be better to separate? -- UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
DEAR UNHEALTHY: Some couples remain in bad marriages because they can't afford to live apart or fear being alone if they divorce. Others have dysfunctional love-hate relationships that, I agree, are unhealthy for everyone, including the children who grow up thinking it is normal. In my opinion, if couples can't live in peace and harmony, they should separate. However, not everyone agrees.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, to whom I've been married since July of 2016, has recently caved in to pressure from friends to participate in "swinger" behavior. He wants me to be included, but I really don't want to.
The other female has lesbian tendencies that make me uncomfortable. Her boyfriend is juggling two partners at once, alternating nights for each one. My husband has told him he can do whatever he wants in front of us, which I find awkward and embarrassing.
I don't want to be a spoilsport, but I feel he is being unfair to me. How do I put the genie back in the bottle without ruining my marriage and friendships? We've lived together since 2005, and the pressure is getting worse now that we're married. -- NOT TO SWING IN THE USA
DEAR NOT TO SWING: If your vision of marriage is a union between two people only, then the man you married is not someone with whom you should spend a lifetime. Do not allow yourself to be coerced into anything you are not comfortable with, and that includes threesomes. Much as you might wish it, you are not going to change your husband, which is why it may be time for you to revisit this subject with him and the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist.
DEAR ABBY: I dated a longtime friend, "Austin," for about four months. He had a history of drug use, but had been sober for about four years before he stopped attending meetings.
I have two children from my previous marriage. He knew when we started dating that if he relapsed, the relationship was over. He did, so I ended it then and there. Austin begged me for a second chance and for my help.
I have known his family for as long as I've known him, which is 20 years. He swore up and down to me that he wouldn't relapse again, but he did and died from an overdose. Austin's family blames me for his death because I didn't answer his calls or messages. How can I explain to them there was nothing I could do? -- FAULT ISN'T MINE
DEAR FAULT: You were under no ethical or moral obligation to answer Austin's texts or messages after his relapses. Save yourself the frustration of trying to point out the truth to his family. Austin's relatives are in pain right now, and in denial as well. They are blaming you rather than their son because the truth -- that Austin was responsible for his own actions and his own death -- may be too hard for them to face.
DEAR ABBY: I am a retired lady who often eats alone in restaurants. When I arrive, the host or hostess usually greets me and asks, "How many?" When I reply, "One," the invariable response is, "Just ONE?" I find the question demeaning and rude.
I have responded with things like "Isn't one enough?" or, "If you prefer groups, I can go elsewhere." I have even mentioned to managers that it would be more appropriate if they trained their hosts not to say "just." Can you offer a better response I can give? -- PARTY OF ONE
DEAR PARTY OF ONE: I think you are handling the situation as well as it can be handled. Sometimes people don't stop to consider the implications of what they are saying. It's impolite for a host to ask, "Just one?" because in some cases the reply could be depressing and cloud the dining experience.
DEAR ABBY: My 18-year-old granddaughter ran away twice last year. She's now living with her boyfriend and refuses to have any contact with her dad. I know my son is very strict, and I'm pretty sure she could just no longer live by his rules. Her mom passed away eight months ago, and my son is all she has besides her sister.
She opened a Facebook page. I was able to write to her a couple of times and she responded. She isn't answering my messages now. I suspect her boyfriend is controlling and is preventing her from contacting her family. I'm also afraid she may be involved with drugs now. She and the boyfriend were recently arrested for shoplifting, and this just isn't typical of my granddaughter.
I have trouble sleeping at night worrying about her. I know she's an adult, but I don't want her to give up on her family who loves her. Do you have any suggestions? Should I go to the house and try and see her, or must we just sit back and wait for her to grow up? Any advice will be appreciated. -- WORRIED NANA
DEAR WORRIED NANA: Do not just sit back. By all means, visit your granddaughter! She needs to know you love her and will be supportive if things don't work out with her boyfriend.
Because she's 18 and now considered an adult, you can't force her to reunite with her father, whose heavy-handed parenting may or may not be the reason she left home. But you can, however, point out that if she needs something, there are better ways to go about acquiring it than shoplifting. You should also encourage her to find a job. If she does, it will increase her independence, not only from her father, but also her boyfriend, if it becomes necessary.
DEAR ABBY: I was recently diagnosed with a stage four cancer. My surgeon has offered me an opportunity to be part of a clinical trial, which my family is aware of. They do not, however, know the details of how far the cancer has spread.
The prognosis for patients in this trial is about two more years. My wife thinks I should share this information with my extended family and friends immediately (although there are few signs that I'm ill). I prefer to remain silent until the disease catches up with me and my time gets closer. Your advice or reader response would be greatly appreciated regarding this very emotional decision. -- KEEPING IT TO MYSELF
DEAR KEEPING IT TO YOURSELF: I'm sorry about your diagnosis. I'm sure when your letter is published there will be a tsunami of reactions -- both pro and con -- from readers.
Of course your wishes should be respected, but since you asked, I am inclined to agree with your wife. Your illness affects not only you but also the rest of your family and friends. If you reveal your prognosis now, it will give the people who love you an opportunity to step up to the plate and offer emotional support, not only to you, but also to her and your family.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069