Dear Abby: I recently found out my grandmother has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has elected not to treat it. The doctors give her a year at the most. My dilemma is whether to extend just one more olive branch.
She has never been a “warm and fuzzy” type of grandmother. She was cold and distant when I was in my teens and 20s, and downright mean when I was in my 30s. If I try to talk to her at family functions, she turns away and begins a conversation with someone else, not even acknowledging that I’m standing there. Last year at a family reunion, she took several photos with my mom and sister, and when it was suggested I join them in the photo, she walked away before one could be snapped. I’m not the only family member or grandchild she behaves this way toward. None of us knows why.
Do I try one more time, suspecting the diagnosis hasn’t softened her heart and that I'll again end up with hurt feelings? Or do I assume that nothing I do now will change who she is and that I will have no positive, happy memories of her?
Frankly, the chances of your grandmother transforming into someone warm and accepting don’t look promising because she appears to be a punitive and unhappy person. However, if you feel you might have regrets if you don’t try once more to connect with her, then make the effort so that when she dies, you'll know you did everything you could. Don’t do it for her; do it for yourself.
Dear Abby: Ever since I was young, which was not that long ago, I have known my parents’ marriage wasn’t a healthy one. But only recently has it begun to affect me emotionally. It isn’t that I blame myself, but that I’m afraid of how my own romantic endeavors will fare.
Recently, I was told about my mother’s infidelity. I was always curious and suspected that one or both of them had affairs. But now more than before, I worry about finding love. Love is something we all seek, and I believe we all need, but I don’t see myself as able to handle that kind of heartbreak.
I understand why Mom did it – that’s part of what hurts me. I’m angry that they would masquerade a failure “for me,” that failure being their “relationship.” I think my anger is valid. My family has screwed me up emotionally and it started long before I knew what was going on. What should I do?
When children are raised in a household where the parents’ words and actions are different, they cope either by believing only what they are told (even if it contradicts what they see happening) or only what they see. While it can interfere with forming healthy relationships later in life, it’s the way they keep themselves sane.
You are right to be concerned, and I hope you will discuss this with a licensed counselor or therapist because if you do, you will find it helpful.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.