Dear Annie: I live five hours away from my parents and a married younger brother. I work two jobs and can only afford to visit my folks once a month or so.
Lately, when I have driven out to see them, I am the last to discover that the four of them have already made plans. They never think to ask if I want to join them. Sometimes, I end up attending the same concert but sitting in the back, alone, while they have better seats. Or I house-sit while they spend the weekend at a casino.
I have tried phoning weeks ahead to let them know when I am coming, and I've changed my plans if I learn they are already busy that weekend. Yet asking to join them seems to surprise everyone and invariably ends up being quite awkward.
What drove me to tears was when they made plans to go to Mexico for a week this summer, and I found out about it when my father told me offhandedly that the four of them had booked their flight. When I asked why I wasn't invited, he responded by saying that they were given paired tickets, and because I am single, it would have meant one unused ticket. My mother then said I was welcome to come if I paid for my own plane ticket and hotel room.
I always thought I was close to my family, but now I see that I'm being left out because I am not married. I'd like to be with them, but if I am going to be ignored, how do I handle that? — Exiled Fifth Wheel
Dear Exiled: We don't think this is deliberate so much as thoughtless. Your parents and brother make plans together when it is convenient for them and don't consider your presence a factor because you are usually away. You could try explaining how hurt you are when they do this, but don't expect it to change much. Let your parents know when you are planning to visit, and ask whether they have already made plans. If so, don't try to join them. Come the weekend before or after. And in the meantime, do more things on your own or with friends.
Dear Annie: My uncle (my mother's brother) and his two sons, both of whom are in their mid-50s, are planning to visit me. Their mom died last year. While I was close to my aunt, I have never communicated much with my uncle or cousins. They didn't even send an email when my dad passed away three years ago.
Now, suddenly, these three men are planning to drive from Vermont to my house in Florida. One says he'll make his famous chili in my kitchen. I told them, "Thanks, but no thanks."
My mother is angry with me for not welcoming this male trio. They will be at my mother's house for several days, and my husband and I have offered to drive there (it's three hours away) and take everyone out for dinner instead. Am I doing the wrong thing? — Florida Daughter
Dear Daughter: No, and your offer to treat them to a meal at Mom's is lovely. Some men are notoriously poor communicators, and the niceties of sending letters or emails escape them. It is obvious that Mom wishes you had a closer relationship and hoped this would provide an opportunity, but welcoming them into your home is entirely your decision.
Dear Annie: The letter from "Confused in Connecticut" hit home with me. I was an overweight child myself, so I feel for her. When I was 24, I decided I didn't want to be overweight anymore, so I joined Weight Watchers. It gave me a healthy program to follow and helped me learn what triggered my eating. It taught me to eat appropriately and keep the weight off. That was 33 years ago, and I have been a lifetime member and leader since. Thank you for letting me help. — Bremen, Ind.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2012. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.