Dear Ann: I am having a problem with my 12-year-old stepson, "Tommy." I married my wife six months ago. She is the most wonderful person in the world, and I love her two children.
My wife's ex-husband, Tommy's father, has spent most of his adult life in jail. "Roy" gave up all parental rights six years ago, and has seen Tommy less than a dozen times in as many years. Roy was paroled a year ago, but made no effort to see Tommy. Unfortunately, Roy's mother had other ideas.
For weeks, "Grandma Betty" urged us to make sure Tommy sees his father, and she always made sure to say it in front of Tommy. We decided to give it a try, and it was a disaster. When we took Tommy to visit him, Roy's language was terrible, and he regaled the boy with stories about what a big shot he was in prison. He is covered with obscene tattoos, and told the boy he should have some done. The visits affected Tommy's behavior both at school and at home, and we decided to curtail the visits until Roy could take some parenting classes. Since then, we have not heard from Roy.
Grandma Betty, however, will not leave this alone. She tells Tommy how much his father loves him and wants to see him, and now, Tommy is nagging us to let him go live with Roy. I have asked Grandma Betty to stop stirring the pot, but she doesn't listen. Tommy's behavior becomes troublesome whenever Grandma Betty is around, and Roy has shown absolutely no interest in cleaning up his act. What should we do? Stepdad in Bellflower, Calif.
Dear Bellflower: It is obvious that Grandma Betty is a bad influence on the boy, and his father Roy is not much better. I hate to tell you to keep the child away from his father and his grandmother, but these two are a couple of bad apples, and the less the child sees of them, the better. The boy's welfare must come first.
Dear Ann: My mother passed away six months ago. She was 84 years old and quite active until shortly before she died. Several of her friends have been calling me lately to see how I'm doing. I am sure they are wondering why I seem less than eager to talk to them. Truthfully, I am a little bitter. Where were these friends when Mom was still alive?
In the last few years of her life, Mom's hearing and eyesight began to fail. She still loved company, however, and enjoyed getting out of the house whenever possible. Several of these so-called friends would talk to her on the phone and tell her how much fun they had at someone's house or how they went to a new restaurant, which meant they drove right by Mom's place. Why didn't it occur to them to invite her along? Did they realize how much it hurt Mom to know they were in the neighborhood, but didn't bother to stop in and visit?
Mom would have loved to have gone to that new restaurant or had a friend drop by for a chat. It's too late for that now, but please remind people not to neglect their old friends and family members. Simply because they are a little deaf or have trouble seeing does not mean they don't mind being cooped up in the house all day and ignored. Susan in Albany, N.Y.
Dear Susan: Your poignant and sensitive letter should be a reminder to readers who have elderly family members and friends that they thrive on visits and short excursions. So, dear readers, take time out of your busy life to do this kindness. The sins of omission can reap the most bitter harvest of all.