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Dear Amy: My husband, kids, and I live in a different state than most of my family.
We are planning a trip to my family’s state and would like to invite my parents and grandmothers to rent a cabin for a few nights.
I don’t see my grandmothers often as they are not well enough to travel too far.
I want to be able to enjoy a wonderful and relaxing trip with them as I am worried about the amount of time I have left to spend with them.
I want to create happy memories with them, my parents, and children together. My grandmothers get along great and often spend time together. They are both widowed, but one of them remarried about a year ago.
Amy, this man is rude and pretentious and makes everyone uncomfortable.
We all keep our feelings to ourselves and are respectful when we have been around him, but my parents and my other grandmother are not a fan of this man.
I worry spending a whole weekend with him would be too much for everyone.
His presence would likely turn this relaxing time with my family into a weekend revolving around his lectures, narcissistic antics, and drama.
Is it selfish of me to only want to spend this precious time with those that bring happiness? Would it be wrong of me to only invite my grandmother and not her condescending new spouse?
How might I extend this exclusive invite? Or is there a polite and discreet way to ask he not make this trip a disagreeable one?
– Happy Memories Only
Dear Happy: Your grandmother chose to marry, and when she did, the man she married entered your family. For better and – it seems – for worse: he is there.
It is not selfish of you to want “only happiness,” but no family can be guaranteed only happy experiences or happy memories. Every family must deal with the challenges presented by their reality.
I suggest that you issue this invitation to everyone, and then do your best to manage this disruptive new family member during your weekend together.
If you establish a baseline willingness to stand up to him: (“Excuse me, ‘Steve,’ but I’d love to hear what my grandmother thinks …”) you might have a better time.
Dear Amy: Our daughter’s overseas wedding was first scheduled two summers ago. Family from both sides (mostly) don’t live there, so with the borders closed, the ceremony was postponed — twice.
Now the wedding is on — for this July. We are now seeing that a number of guests who RSVP’d that they were coming the first two times now say they cannot make it. We will miss seeing them.
So here is the question: Since we already have the lovely venue paid for a specific number of guests, is it tacky to invite those who “didn’t make the first guest list” originally to join us now?
If it is not tacky, how might we even phrase that?
– Wondering About Wedding
Dear Wondering: When it comes to “tacky,” I take a stance that’s probably more Dolly Parton than Emily Post.
I say, be authentic, be polite, and – if you’re backed into a corner – be truthful!
Issue your invitations. You might call this event: Third Time’s the Charm.
I don’t think it’s necessary to make any reference to previous plans when you invite people.
If prospective guests inquire: “Hey, I thought you didn’t have room for me…!” say, “The pandemic really messed with our plans and some close family members can’t make it overseas this summer, so if you are able to join us on relatively short notice, we’d love it!”
Dear Amy: “Concerned Sister” was trying to prompt her aging sister to make some plans for her future.
Thank you for highlighting the need for families to discuss end-of-life issues with one another.
My mother descended into the ravages of dementia before we had ever discussed these things. In the years I spent caring for her, I often wished I knew what her wishes were. It would have made everything so much easier for me and for other family members who were trying to provide the best care for her.
We were very much in the dark, and I still have regrets about that tough period.
– With Regrets
Dear Regrets: The situation you describe is what journalist Ellen Goodman was struggling with through her own mother’s illness and death, inspiring her to start The Conversation Project (theconversationproject.org), which provides helpful prompts to get families talking.