Dear Amy: I have three grandchildren who address me as "Mr.," and not as "Grandpa."
Although it is true that I was not in their lives growing up, I was not a bad or cruel influence.
A few years ago, I sent a Christmas gift (a large check) to one of these grandchildren, and I quickly received a nice thank you card, but it was addressed "Dear Mr. 'Smith.'"
I was so angry that I never sent another gift, and haven't heard from them since.
I am 87 years old. How do I become "Grandpa" before it is too late?
-- Want to Be Grandpa
Dear Want to Be: The way to become a "Grandpa" is to act like one. Grandparents, ideally, are involved, caring and kind. They offer a soft place for their grandchildren to nestle, removed from the pressures of other relationships. They love without harsh judgment. They create a positive presence, even when they are not nearby. They communicate and show a loving interest in the lives of their grandchildren. Yes, sometimes grandparents send big checks, but the big check is supposed to be an expression of the love, not a bid for it.
Your reaction to this gracious "thank you" was punitive. Instead of simply saying, "I would love it if you would call me 'Grandpa,' you cut off all communication, missing yet another opportunity for meaningful connection.
Reach out to these three grandchildren. Explain yourself. Describe your life, and explain why you weren't in their lives during their formative years. Apologize for all of the missed opportunities. Ask them to get in touch and tell you about themselves.
You don't mention your relationship with the parents of these three grandchildren, but -- obviously -- they hold an influential and important relationship card with these children.
I hope you take whatever steps you can to resolve this issue soon. You will not regret trying.
Dear Amy: My fiance and I are planning to get married this month at the courthouse, attended by our parents and siblings, with a quiet dinner afterward.
We originally planned to have a courthouse wedding and a big party in June. We are still planning the June party, but we decided to move the marriage date up for practical reasons.
We're unsure about how to inform our extended family. My mother's advice is to talk with our respective grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., in person or over the phone before the event. My fiance and I want to tell them after the fact: if we get married on a Friday, then we'll spend part of Saturday making calls and informing our family of the good news.
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This is really the only option for his branch of the family; they have some difficulties with boundaries, and it isn't out of the realm of possibility for them to show up at the courthouse uninvited. Additionally, I feel that informing my branch in advance would come across as asking for their permission and approval.
We are planning to remind our branches that the June party is still on, family pictures will still be taken and we are open to having a vow recitation or other unofficial marriage ceremony on that date. We do not want our elopement to hurt anyone's feelings!
Should we tell them before, or tell them after?
Dear Anonymous: This isn't quite an elopement; it's a change in plans. Both sets of parents will be there, and by not telling other family members you are essentially asking these parents to keep your plans a secret. This places them in a bind, so don't be surprised if the word leaks out.
By informing people before the fact, you are not asking their permission, but you ARE letting yourselves in for some confusion, (inevitable) disappointment and (possibly) negative feedback before you say your vows.
I agree with your idea to call all extended family members the day after the courthouse ceremony. Steel yourselves for a variety of responses. Assure them that your plan to party in June remains intact, and tell them that you hope they will be there to celebrate along with you.
Dear Amy: I was appalled at those ridiculous "cat ladies" [Upset Aunt] who refused to sequester their cats during the visit of an allergic family member. I have had several dogs and cats over the years that cannot interact with visitors (for a variety of reasons). I always put the needs of my human guests first. My animals can handle it.
-- Hospitality First
Dear Hospitality: I agree with your take.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)