Dear Annie: I was widowed five years ago when my husband of 23 years died after a long illness. My four kids (the oldest from a previous marriage) still grieve to this day. "George" always considered my eldest daughter to be his child. Two years after George died, I married a wonderful man who respects the memory of my late husband. George's family embraced him. Or so I thought.
Recently, George's two sisters excluded us from a family get-together when an out-of-town sibling was visiting. I had invited everyone to my home via email, but the sisters claim they never saw it. Even so, they insisted the evening was "just for siblings." My kids thought their aunts and uncles were coming to our house and even took off of work to be here. George's mother was not happy that we were excluded, and neither was the visiting sibling, but neither will rock the boat.
These two sisters give the distinct impression that they have no interest in a relationship with my oldest child or me because we are not "blood related." But this hurts my other children, too, and is causing a great deal of misery.
When George was sick, these same sisters never visited, but I never once mentioned their lack of involvement. This has totally recalibrated everything I thought I knew about family. I want to confront these two sisters, but don't want to hurt George's mother. How should I handle this? - Brokenhearted in Kansas
Dear Kansas: A confrontation is unlikely to help. It's terribly sad and hurtful when people exclude those who aren't "blood related" within the family. Since George's mother and his remaining sibling will not speak up on your behalf, it is up to your younger children to make it clear to these mean-spirited aunts that they are unhappy about the situation, although how they do so is up to them. Please don't push your children to cut off contact with these aunts if they prefer not to.
Dear Annie: My son has planned a huge wedding reception, but only a few people are invited to the actual ceremony. He insists on a small wedding, even though I've explained that this is where friends and family assemble to witness the union and agree to encourage and support the new couple. The church is big enough.
Now my brother says it's not worth a three-hour drive for a reception. Several close friends who have known my son all his life are hurt and may not come at all. On top of this, my son and his bride did not register for gifts. They asked for cash.
I know it's not my wedding, but these kids are just out of school and seem to lack all sense of propriety. I have told my brother and a few others to come to the ceremony anyway, and I will take the blame. Annie, have we lost this battle of good behavior? - Troubled M-O-G
Dear Troubled: Let's clarify: It is OK to have a small ceremony and a larger reception, although it does seem rather exclusive. Nonetheless, this is the couple's choice, and we don't think it's a good idea for you to usurp their guest list, even with the best of intentions. Please talk to your son and his bride again and explain how much it hurts these close friends and relatives who love him to be excluded from witnessing his vows, and how this could affect their relationships for years to come. We do agree, however, that asking for cash is tacky.
Dear Annie: Kudos to "D," who wrote that there are not enough "happy" letters in your column. My theory is that happiness is a personality trait. You are either happy or not. People and circumstances can make one unhappy, but no one can really make one happy. Maybe "happier" is the correct term. - Happy at 78
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.