DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: We have four children, all in their 50s, who don't get along. The problem is having them all come for Christmas. We are both in our 90s, in poor health and this may be our last Christmas, so we want to do that. The oldest girl seems to act like the mother and bosses several of them around.
We've done nothing wrong to them. We tried to give them everything we could when they were growing up: a roof over their heads, food, clothing and spending money like other kids. We feel we should just phone them and tell them that dinner is at a certain time and for them to come, but the only ones that have any contact with us are the one son and one daughter from out of town who phone us once in a while. The two "kids" here in town show us no respect and feel we should bow down to them, as if we owe them something. As for the grandchildren, they mimic their parents. -- A Mother With No Respect, Winnipeg
Dear Respect: Don't make it an all-or-nothing thing. Invite everybody, but only truly expect the two families who enjoy your company to come. The two in town would just be a bonus. (They won't want to be acting out a family Christmas scene they don't believe in.) Get out some card games or board games for people -- it's a way for cranky families to have fun without trying to manufacture conversation. That way, people who are uncomfortable with each other have a different focus and some laughs. You're going to need some laughs and music playing in the background to fill in any awkward spots. If cooking a turkey with all the trimmings and dessert is difficult in your 90s, consider buying one done up already by a hotel (the cost is usually around $150-$195). If certain people don't show, you can freeze the extra food and you haven't gone to too much trouble.
By the way, family ties in later years are not about respect, they are about love and showing love. Something is missing from the information you sent about why this situation happened. No matter what your age, it's not too late to soften and try to repair that aspect with the "kids" living in town. Make that a goal, starting now with some pleasant phone calls with no guilt-inducing tone.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Our sister-in-law seems to have difficulty telling the truth about most things. She has concocted huge stories about her work history, her parents, her past places of residence, her religion and even her ethnic background. She often pretends to enjoy things which are the topic of conversation that she clearly has no interest or experience in. It has gotten so out of hand, I don't think she remembers what she has told to anyone as things seem to be surfacing and stories are being compared and found not to match.
It was quite obvious last year, via social media, that she was having a fling, but that seems to have fizzled. Other issues (with the exception of the fling) have been brought to her husband's attention. Recently, an acquaintance found her name on a dating site. What, if anything, should be said or done? -- Concerned Sister-in-Law
Dear Concerned: You think your brother doesn't know his wife is a liar? He lives with it every day. Liars are often cheaters, as the skill is transferable. Their marriage is no doubt a big mess and he knows it, but is choosing to stay with this woman. I gather there are children to consider or some financial reasons to keep him there, for now. Most people would tell a brother if they knew for sure his wife was advertising herself on a dating site, but you said an acquaintance saw your sister-in-law's name on a site -- that's not first-hand and people don't give their names on sites. You better check this out yourself before you make the accusation. There's also a chance your brother is fooling around online himself. You might want to ask him if he's online looking for an alternate relationship, and then watch his face for the real answer, before you spill the beans about his wife.
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