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Dear Abby: My stepbrother “Pete” is a recovering addict who did significant prison time for possession and gang affiliations. He has also had multiple DUI convictions. He’s been out for two years and is holding a job and taking care of his kids part time. My parents think he’s completely rehabilitated, but I think he’s using again, based on his behavior. He has tried to get my husband to give him some of a prescription medication he takes, and jokes about “acting good” when with family but not at home. I decided I no longer want to be around Pete, particularly with my children, and I asked my parents not to have him over while we are visiting. They said they understood, but the last time we went for a weekend, Pete was there with his son, and it was really uncomfortable.
Now they say they just want us to all get along and that I’m “snobby” for wanting to exclude Pete. I have reached a point where I’m no longer willing to visit them because I can’t trust them. They won’t come to my house but are mad at me for “withholding their grandkids from them” (their words) and “breaking up the family.” What are my obligations in this situation, and is it reasonable to insist we visit without Pete? I hate to make them choose, but I also feel like this is a safety issue.
Uncomfortable in Minnesota
Dear Uncomfortable: As a parent, you have to do what you think is best for your children. I wish you had explained your parents’ reason for not visiting your home, because it appears to be manipulative and a means of punishing you for sticking to your guns. Given the fact that Pete has tried to persuade your husband to share his scheduled medications and has bragged about “acting good” when with family, you are doing the right thing.
Dear Abby: My sister — age 57 — has terrible table manners. We live three hours apart but get together every two or three months to enjoy each other’s company. Recently, we went to a nice restaurant, and she let out a loud, obnoxious, disgusting burp.
I was surprised and embarrassed. She quickly apologized. I said, “Can’t you lower the volume and cover your mouth?” She became defensive and said, “I apologized!” Her burping happens often, but this one was beyond the pale. I don’t like it, never have. How do I communicate to her effectively to burp quietly and in a controlled manner?
Disgusted in New Jersey
Dear Disgusted: I think you have already done that. Is it possible your sister suffers from a gastrointestinal disorder? If she hasn’t brought this to the attention of her doctor, she should. If, however, there is nothing physically wrong with her, you may be happier having your meals in a different kind of restaurant — a loud, casual burger joint or a sports bar where no one will notice her problem while rooting for the home team.
Dear Readers: Have a very happy and healthy Fourth of July, everyone. And please be safe!