December 1, 2013
Dear Annie: My husband and I are in our early 80s. We have four children. “John” and “Susan” are from my first marriage. They were very young when my first husband died and I remarried. I then had “Jane” and “Alice.”
On my most recent birthday, Jane took my husband and me to our favorite restaurant. Jane also invited Alice, who lives in a rental on our property. (Susan lives in another state.) Alice posted on Facebook what a nice dinner we had. The next morning, Susan called Alice at 4 a.m., screaming, “Why didn’t you invite John?” She then proceeded to call me and scream. I was shocked.
I sent her an email later and asked why she was so upset. I love John, but he has made a mess of his life. He is a bully and has had confrontations with everyone in the family. We recently found out that John molested Alice when she was 5 years old. Alice is cordial when she is forced to be around him, but John has never admitted or apologized for his actions.
My older kids are not terribly reliable. We named Jane executor of our estate because Susan is a heavy pot smoker and quick-tempered, and John cannot be trusted. It breaks my heart, but that’s the way it is.
Susan hasn’t spoken to me in months. I now believe she and John have always been jealous of my younger daughters. Even though my husband raised them all, Susan has said hurtful things about him. She also says I “never wanted” her. This is completely untrue.
I pine for Susan every day, but I refuse to phone her because of the awful things she says to me. My husband says we only have a few years left and we should enjoy them. What do you think? — Heartbroken
Dear Heartbroken: It is not unusual for children, even grown ones, to harbor resentments and jealousies against younger siblings, particularly when those siblings are from a different marriage. While your older kids could have benefited from family counseling at the time, there’s not much you can do about that now. We suggest you send Susan a letter or an email, simply saying that you love her and always will, that you are sorry for the rift, and that you hope someday her anger will pass.
Meanwhile, please have Alice contact RAINN (rainn.org) at 1-800-656-HOPE. Being cordial to her molester may be harder on her than you think.
Dear Annie: I was taught that “RSVP” stands for “please respond.” But these days, huge organizations (often charities) send mass-mailed invitations to hundreds of people, some of whom have little connection to the group and may live so far away that it would be extraordinary if they attended.
I always write a note sending my regrets, because this has been ingrained in me. But I also worry that the functionary who receives my note wonders, “Who is this anachronism living in the past century?” Do the charities really expect the non-attendees to RSVP that they will not be there, or do they merely seek a head count? — Don’t Want To Be Old-Fashioned
Dear Don’t: They want a head count, but an RSVP saying “no” is equally appropriate. And we are certain they appreciate (and marvel at) an actual handwritten response by someone who is well-mannered enough to send one. Bless your heart.
Dear Annie: Please tell “Polly Positive” that she and her husband should attend a cancer support group. After my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we joined two cancer support groups. We get a lot of information from the survivors and are able to give advice to the newly diagnosed. I can’t stress strongly enough how important support groups are. — Big Cancer Support Group Advocate
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