DEAR ABBY: We are approaching the time of year when many people struggle with how to divide time between families during the holidays. This is often made harder when there has been divorce and remarriage within a family, especially when children are involved. This was the case in our family.
Planning dinners and celebrations became far easier once I realized that holidays are not just arbitrary dates on a calendar, but a spirit of heart and mind. I let everyone else plan their events, and then choose a day that as many people as possible are available. I host an event on that day — a week earlier, a week (or month) later — it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we gather in love and friendship and have a wonderful time.
As a result, even my former daughters-in-law readily join in with their new spouses and children and we have a ball! We get to blend together four generations, and our youngest generation is richer for the experience. We joke about having “in-law” and “out-law” tables.
I’ll be honest, it took work. The adults had to agree to act like adults, but I’m proud that everyone looks forward to coming to our holiday celebrations whenever they are held. My advice to your readers: Forget the calendar and remember the reason for the gathering! — FOUND HOLIDAY SPIRIT
DEAR FOUND: I love your attitude, and couldn’t stop smiling after reading your letter. Thank you so much for writing. I hope it will open the minds and hearts of other readers.
DEAR ABBY: I’m a 61-year-old man. When I was 40, I was told by my sister that Dad had confided that our mom — who had recently passed — had been married before. We were both floored that it was a secret all those years and that, with a family of 12 aunts and uncles and countless cousins, no one ever spilled the beans.
About a year ago, I asked an older cousin on Facebook why no one had ever mentioned it. He said his mom told him not to, AND that my oldest sister, also deceased, wasn’t my dad’s daughter. Dad is gone now, and I only have my cousin’s word to go by.
Almost all of the relatives are dead, and the only living uncle was younger than my mom. He’s in his 80s now and doesn’t remember anything like that. I can’t help but wonder what other parts of my life were a “lie.” I have suffered from depression for years and this certainly doesn’t help. Any thoughts? — JUMBLED IN TEXAS
DEAR JUMBLED: I’m glad you asked because I do have some to offer. None of the parts of your life have been a “lie.” Certain parts of your PARENTS’ lives were obfuscated, most likely because they weren’t proud of them. In your parents’ generation, divorce was less common than it has been in more recent decades. But they are dead and gone now. It is time to forgive them for their lapses and concentrate on your own life. A step in the right direction would be to schedule some time with a licensed psychotherapist to talk about your depression.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)