DEAR AMY: I'm a former foster child. As an adult, I moved 1,500 miles away from my toxic family. I've been friendly with my maternal aunt, who I lived with short-term while a teenager. I'm now early 40s. She's been asking for 10 years for me to travel to a vacation destination in the Midwest (a four-hour drive for her) to acquaint our families (my child, her grandchildren) with one another. I made the leap and bought airline tickets in January for a five-day visit with my aunt, her daughter and grandchildren. She offered to pay for a hotel for us, which is beyond kind. Now we are close to the visit date and so I checked in with her. She told me that due to busy schedules she can only spare a day and a half to visit, and no mention of hotel payment. I emailed her that I understand busy schedules, but I feel that I'm not important and this was a big deal to make this trip, BUT I'll make the best of it and get an inexpensive motel (I can't afford the hotel she's staying at). Now there is no response (cold shoulder is used to control situations on this side of my family). What would you do? Call her? Let it go and just do a vacation with my family? I'm feeling like I should have known better.
DEAR BURNED AGAIN: Yes, you should call her. You've already got in your dig: "I feel that I'm not important, BUT I'll make the best of it."
Those aren't the words of someone who is actually ready to make the best of it. And I don't blame you a bit.
I think you should take a breath and decide whether you want to make this trip at all. This is one of those times when you may be better off cutting your losses — losing the cost of the airline tickets, versus spending even more — financially and emotionally — to make this trip.
Once you make your choice, own it. If you go, definitely make the best of it. It's possible that a personal reconnection might be good for you. You're an adult now, and putting some of these pieces into place as a mature person might invite growth. If you get burned — again — you will have your own immediate family to surround and support you.
DEAR AMY: I did some volunteer work at an eldercare facility. I was sad to see how many people's families paid for their care, but didn't come to visit. But after a while I learned that many of these people who were so nice to me at the eldercare facility had been terrible parents. They had alienated their children for years and now when they needed their families, they had no relationship to draw upon. I'm no longer so quick to criticize.
DEAR BEEN THERE: A friend of mine does important research on family estrangement. He told me that quite often elderly parents will report that an estrangement happened "for no reason." When he digs deeper into an interview, he frequently unearths a very good reason — along with a lot of denial.
Generally, in relationships, we all reap what we sow.
I assume that nursing home staff have a lot of insight into family dynamics and its impact on the care and attention elders receive from their children. But it is challenging, and perhaps unfair, to judge people based on a narrow knowledge of them close to the end of their lives.
DEAR AMY: I read today from a recent column, including a letter from "Holding," about scattering her friends ashes in Ireland. I live in Galway on the west coast of Ireland and wondered if I could be of help to the writer? I wondered whether the cliffs she was referring to were the Cliffs of Moher, which are close to where I live. If the cliffs she is talking about are nearby, I would be happy to scatter them for her if she posted or couriered them to me.
DEAR CLARE: So many kind readers have offered to help "Holding" scatter her friend's ashes. I'm publishing your response as an example of the kindness and generosity shown to her.
I have forwarded these various offers to Holding, and I hope that she follows through and accepts this generosity. It would be good for her to finally put this to rest. Thank you, all!