Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: In the Middle

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My mother-in-law was desperate to have grandchildren, but when our daughter was born, Mom turned out to be a horrible grandmother.

During visits to Grandma's house, our daughter had to entertain herself in a spare bedroom because Grandma's dogs didn't like kids, and Grandma wouldn't lock up her "babies" for the sake of ours. We planned family trips, but Grandma would always cancel at the last minute. We invited her to school plays and recitals, but Grandma said they were boring and told our daughter that she had no talent.

Mom has a terrible temper and would slap our daughter for things like talking while the TV was on. Grandma did give our daughter lots of gifts, and our daughter always thanked her. But the gifts were thoughtless -- anything Mom could pick up cheaply, with no consideration of age, gender or interests. She once bought our teenage girl a toy that was appropriate for a 3-year-old boy.

My daughter is a young adult now. She is polite to her grandmother when she sees her and sends holiday cards with short notes, but otherwise avoids her. She considers Grandma to be a well-intentioned lunatic. The problem is, Grandma has decided that my daughter "owes" her attention since she was such a "loving, wonderful grandmother," and she is upset about the very sensible boundaries our daughter is drawing for involving Grandma in her personal life.

I am being blamed for the distance between them and am expected to fix it. Grandma is hypersensitive. Suggesting that she might need to do things differently makes her furious. Any ideas? -- In the Middle

Dear Middle: You need to stay out of this as much as possible. Your daughter should continue to send cards and thank her grandmother for any gifts, and you can encourage her to periodically phone Grandma or email her with whatever updates she is willing to share. Beyond that, express sympathy when Mom wants more, and ignore as much as you can. This isn't your responsibility.

Dear Annie: An acquaintance sits beside me at the counter in a local diner several times a week. We both go there because neither of us likes to eat alone.

Here's the problem: When "Bill" comes in, he sits beside me, but won't speak unless I speak to him first. I actually have waited for more than an hour, and he wouldn't talk. Once I do get him to speak, he can't hold up his end of the conversation. He'll mumble a few words, and then he's done. During a two-hour dinner, Bill said fewer than 14 words. I counted. Yet he always makes a beeline for the open stool beside me.


By the way, Bill does this with everyone, not just me. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but this is so exasperating, it's affecting my health. -- Frustrated in Texas

Dear Texas: Bill sounds socially awkward. Having a conversation is difficult and stressful for him. He sits near you because, for whatever reason, you make him feel comfortable. He doesn't expect you to converse with him, although he probably appreciates the brief attempts. If you can understand that Bill considers you good company as you are, you might not feel so pressured to get him to talk, which ought to alleviate some of your frustration.

Dear Annie: "Patty" was worried that her husband would find her uninteresting once the kids left home.

One of the best empty nest activities is bridge. It's a very social activity, and strategy games are thought to help prevent dementia and other age-related problems. There are bridge clubs throughout the United States, and once you learn the game, you can travel with your spouse for a combination of bridge playing and touring.

My wife and I met through bridge. Patty can get more information at the American Contract Bridge League website at -- Los Angeles


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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