Thorn in the Family Side

By Marcy Sugar

By Kathy Mitchell

February 22, 2012 5 min read

Dear Annie: My husband and I were both widowed before meeting. We are now 70 and have been happily married for six years. We both have grown children.

Everything is good in our blended family except for my son's wife. "Stacy" has been a thorn in my side from the day they married 20 years ago. My former husband and I always managed to keep her quick temper under control. But since he died and I remarried, she's gone completely overboard. She has stopped my son from having any contact with our family, including his brothers and me.

Stacy has been unable to hold down a job because she can't get along with others. She's judgmental, critical and short-tempered. She is often jealous and has many unresolved issues from her childhood. She is keeping us away from her family, and none of us has seen my grandsons in three years. She says we aren't trustworthy, but that isn't true. We are not deceitful in any way, and our word is good.

The rest of the family continues to get together without my son and daughter-in-law, but we miss them very much. Our blended family is kind and loving toward one another. But those two grandsons don't know us, and it looks like that won't change anytime soon. My son is overwhelmed with Stacy's control issues, so he just goes along with whatever she wants.

Cards, letters, phone calls and emails go unanswered. Do you have any suggestions? — Grandma with a Broken Heart

Dear Grandma: We are so sorry that your son and his wife have chosen to exclude themselves from a loving family. Without your son's insistence, it is unlikely Stacy will come around. We understand that he is reluctant to rock the boat and possibly damage his marriage, but he shouldn't be isolated from his family in order to placate his wife. It is a form of emotional abuse.

Please continue to send cards, letters and emails without expecting replies. You never know what gets through. Depending on your state, you also could sue for visitation privileges if you so choose. A lawyer with expertise in grandparents' rights can help you.

Dear Annie: My father's secretary of many years smokes a pack of cigarettes every day in her office. The ceilings are low, and the ventilation is poor. The secondhand smoke is detrimental to my father's health, which is already compromised by other medical conditions.

My siblings and I have asked her many times to try to get help for her addiction, and to smoke outside or on the office balcony. Do we have to let her do as she pleases, even though it hurts to see Dad breathing in her fumes? — Montreal Fan

Dear Montreal: We have to wonder whether this secretary harbors some hostility toward Dad. Nonetheless, your father is the one who needs to speak up, and apparently, he is unwilling. So put in some fans, smokeless ashtrays and other helpful devices that will minimize the damage.

Dear Annie: I was bothered by the letter from "New Yorker," who volunteers at a nonprofit that provides homework help to neighborhood school kids.

Her assumption that many newer families are "stable and affluent" could be wrong. We have friends and family who are struggling, yet they try to maintain a proud face. This after-school program might be the saving grace for a woman working two jobs.

"New Yorker" should find another way of volunteering in the community if she finds some children unworthy of her charitable works. — M

Dear M: You make a good point. These after-school programs can be a true blessing to families and an educational boon to children regardless of income levels.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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