Annie’s Mailbox: She’s not everyone’s Gramma

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Q. I would like your opinion on something. I am a grandmother of four wonderful grandkids and very proud of the fact. The problem comes when dealing with the other grandmother, especially when others are in the vicinity. I don’t know whether it’s because I am older than she is or what, but she always addresses me as “Gramma Mary,” as in, “Gramma Mary, what would you like to do today?”


I find this condescending, disrespectful and rude. First of all, I am not her grandmother. Second, I am a person in my own right, with a job and hobbies. I am not defined solely by being a grandmother.


I was at a family function last week where I met my granddaughter’s soon-to-be mother-in-law, and this woman called me “Gramma,” too! My daughter later said it was because she couldn’t remember my name, which is all well and good, but when I couldn’t remember her name, I didn’t call her “Mom.” I took my daughter aside and asked what her name was.


I don’t mean to sound petty, but this bothers me so much that I want to scream. If a grandchild calls me “Gramma,” I’m thrilled and want them to shout it from the rooftops. But when nonrelated adults do it, it is demeaning. How can I get them to stop? – No Name, No City


A. Not every grandmother would object to this, especially since other adults might consider it part of your title and unconnected to your relationship to them. Also keep in mind that, in front of the grandchildren, others may feel it is less confusing to the kids to refer to you by the same name the children use. But since this bothers you so much, it’s perfectly OK to state your preference at the time. When someone calls you “Gramma Mary,” smile and say, “I’d prefer you call me ‘Mary.”’ You can remind them when necessary.


Q. I am a recent widower. I was married for more than 50 years. The problem is, my conscience is really bothering me.


Almost 40 years ago, I had a brief affair with one of my employees. I confessed my sins to my priest, but I never said anything to my wife. I don’t know whether she suspected anything, but if she did, she was silent.


The dilemma is: Should I tell my adult children? Or should I take this unholy secret to my grave? – California


A. Please don’t ease your conscience by burdening your children with this hurtful information. You might feel better, but they would feel terrible. Even though you spoke to your priest, if you still need to get this off your chest, talk to a counselor. You made a mistake 40 years ago and crave forgiveness, but you also have to forgive yourself.


Dear Annie: This is in reply to “Conflicted Adoptee from Kansas,” who located her birth mother and wanted her half-siblings to know about her.


My mother had a child when she was 19. She was unable to care for the baby girl, but the biological father’s parents decided to raise her without any contact with my mother. Ten years later, my mother married someone else and had me.


When I was in college, this now-grown child contacted my mother and said she wanted me to know I have a sibling. My mother was terrified to tell me, but didn’t want me to hear it first from my half-sister. Mom sobbed through the entire conversation, and I can only imagine how she felt. I understand the fear and concern that my opinion of her would change, but I am just glad she told me about it.


I now have a relationship with my half-sister, and although we don’t have a lot of contact, we are still family. I can’t imagine allowing this knowledge to affect my close relationship with my mother. Everyone has a past. – Surprised Half-Sibling



Email questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.


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