Dear Abby: Devoted stepmother feels neglected as woman tries to repair relationship with her alcoholic mother

After the stepmom and her husband helped her in a custody fight, they’re hurt that the phone calls and visits have slowed.

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DEAR ABBY: My stepdaughter, “Crystal,” has a toxic relationship with her mother. Both have battled alcoholism. The mother did some extreme damage that has ended the possibility of Crystal regaining custody of her 6-year-old son. My husband and I hired a lawyer to help her fight for her rights, and we have brought her to our home twice. The last time was right out of the hospital after she nearly killed herself with alcohol poisoning.

Fast-forward: Crystal is trying to mend her relationship with her mother, and now we have become second fiddle. What used to be a daily phone conversation happens now only when I call. When we try to visit them, they make excuses, and they have visited us only twice in the last six months. Her latest plan is to stay overnight with us and spend the following day with her mom.

We are swallowing our pride so we can see our 6-month-old granddaughter, but our feelings are so hurt. Please help me take the high road. Do we talk to her or just feel crushed? — WOUNDED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR WOUNDED: Your troubled stepdaughter is trying to mend fences with her mother. Try not to take personally that she has tunnel vision right now. I do not think you should address this with her at this time. Let more time elapse, and if her distancing continues, talk to her about it then.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I live in southern Florida. My problem is our children, grandchildren and their spouses. When they come to visit, they only eat certain foods and need “healthy this” and “healthy that.” I feel like we’re being used as a hotel and restaurant. I want to see them, but it is becoming exhausting. What should I do? — ROLLING BACK THE WELCOME MAT

DEAR ROLLING: Roll back that welcome mat. Talk to your children, grandchildren and their spouses. They may not realize the extent to which they have been imposing on you. Tell them that if they have special dietary requirements, they should buy their own foods, and you will make room in the refrigerator to accommodate them. If their presence in your home is becoming too taxing, provide a list of affordable hotels or rentals in the area they might consider.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 91-year-old, 4-foot-8 woman who still drives and goes alone to shop and conduct business. My problem is I am frequently approached by strangers who want to “help” me. This frightens me because I cannot defend myself. While someone holding a door open for me is appreciated, I have no way to identify a purse snatcher who may intend to knock me down. How can I communicate that I’m capable of caring for myself without offending the person? — GREAT-GRANDMOTHER IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR GREAT-GRANDMOTHER: You are not the only senior who has expressed these feelings. Look the person in the eye and say firmly, “I know you mean well and thank you, but NO THANK YOU. I prefer to do this myself.”

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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