DEAR AMY: My 90-year-old grandmother is a truly awful human being. She has alienated her entire family, including her five kids and multiple grandchildren. She's lost countless friends and ruined relationships with those around her. My mother refers to her as a sociopath, and my uncles and aunts say they cannot wait for the day that she eventually passes. While she's typically invited to family functions, she has not attended in years — and honestly, we don't miss her. When my sister (who is gay) got married a few years ago, my grandmother was invited, and chose not to attend. Instead, she sent my sister and her new wife a pamphlet on sexually transmitted diseases enclosed in a sympathy card. At that point, I was fully done with her, as was my sister. My grandmother has run out of money in recent years. Her children were all contributing to a monthly account for her, but after discovering that she was spending most of this money on home shopping purchases and casino trips, they all stopped. My mother and her siblings said the only items they will pay for now will be for her moving into assisted living and her funeral. About a week ago, my sister and I both received a letter in the mail from my grandmother pleading for money, and explaining how dire her financial situation was. She sent this letter to all of her grandchildren, all of whom feel the same way about her. I really want to respond and tell her what I think of her. The other part of me wants to show compassion toward someone near the end of their life. I certainly will not be giving her any money, but I feel that I should respond regardless. I just don't know how. What do you think?
DEAR UNSURE: Before you respond, ask yourself: "What good would it do?" If it would somehow benefit her, you, and others to lay out with complete honesty how reprehensible her behavior has been over the years, then do that.
Otherwise, you could try a simple, more compassionate, but also truthful response: "Dear Gran, I received your letter. I'm genuinely sorry you are in this position. Unfortunately, I cannot be part of your solution. I hope you find peace during this part of your life. Every person deserves that, and I want that for you, too."
DEAR AMY: Today I attended my son's "continuation ceremony," i.e., graduation from elementary school. As part of the ceremony, six or eight parents were recognized for having done a lot of volunteering at the school over the years and were given small bouquets of flowers, delivered by their kids. I was one of the recipients and was really touched. Here's the problem: A few other people should have been recognized too — one person in particular. In fact, I was shocked that she was overlooked (I don't know who came up with the list). Her contributions easily topped mine and some of the others. After the ceremony, during the cake and fruit interlude, I caught her eye and smiled at her, while clutching my flowers. She gave me a kind of rueful smile back. We're not close, just volunteer colleagues. In fact, I don't think she likes me. I considered saying, "These should have been yours," and "I don't know why they didn't give you flowers," and various other remarks, all of which seemed horrible. So I didn't say anything. What on earth could I have said?
DEAR VOLUNTEER: The rueful look you received was an invitation for you to acknowledge this other person's efforts. And yes, you could/should have said, "You are obviously more deserving than I, and I'm embarrassed that your own efforts were not acknowledged. I don't know what they were thinking, but I want to thank you very much for all you've done for this school, and all the children who have graduated today."
DEAR AMY: I loved your answer to "Pissed Mom," the new mom whose elderly visiting father-in-law regularly seemed to "miss" the toilet when using it at night. I understand why she didn't want to clean up after him. Thank you for suggesting that the older dad might have vision or other problems. And thank you for suggesting that "Pissed's" husband should handle this with his father.
DEAR APPRECIATIVE: Many readers also expressed appreciation for the suggestion that "Pissed" and her husband should be sharing all diapering and cleaning chores.