Dear Annie: I was married for 30 years to a man I loved deeply. I know perfectly well he is not perfect (who is?) and saw him struggle to control his temper and sharp tongue. He had a schizophrenic father and an alcoholic mother. They divorced when he was about 10, and he bounced from foster home to foster home. He slept in alleys and ate from garbage cans.
He was deeply loving, fiercely protective and faithful. He had compassion for the downtrodden and often gave away food, clothing and money to the less fortunate. I loved his heart of "pure mush," as he put it.
Unfortunately, my family only saw his quick temper and said he was only using me for my money. He always worked, just at lower-paying jobs, and we learned to live with less so we could give more away. They never saw the generous things he did.
When he died, I notified both families and received no condolences whatsoever. His family has never acknowledged his passing. My family members seem intent on degrading him in front of our mutual friends and me. These are people who claim they care about me, but I wonder.
Why won't they let the man rest in peace and leave me with my loving memories, instead of trying to justify their apparent hostility? He's dead now and can't aggravate them anymore. How can I get them to stop? - Still Loving My One and Only
Dear Still: You have to tell them and make it stick. If your relatives begin denigrating your late husband, respond with: "Please stop saying terrible things about someone I loved. It makes my grieving more difficult." Don't lose your temper or cry. Simply make your statement, and if they continue to say unkind things, get up and leave. Eventually, they will stop, but at least you won't have to listen to their comments in the meantime. Our condolences on your loss.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.