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Home > Columnists > C.E. Marraffino
December 15, 2011

Abandoned After Separation


Dear Annie: My husband and I separated 10 years ago when our children were preteens. He has shown little interest in them and maintains contact only due to my encouragement. My family always includes him when we have family get-togethers. His family, however, decided that being nice to us would be taking sides, so they ignore our existence.

Recently, my husband and his family had a big reunion less than a block from us. We have not seen some of these relatives since the separation. They did not let us know they were coming and made no contact, even though my mother-in-law was here for more than a week.

Although my children claim they do not care, I can see how painful it is that their grandparents, aunts and uncles have abandoned them. Every time I try to communicate with my in-laws, they subject me to horrible accusations. My kids say I can't fix everything, but giving up doesn't seem like the answer. What is? — Feeling Hurt and Helpless

Dear Hurt: Your children sound wise beyond their years, and they are old enough now to handle this as they see fit. Ask if they would like to contact their grandparents and other paternal relatives. Offer phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook pages, whatever you have. In all likelihood, these relatives will treat the children better than they would you, the ex-wife, and they may actually reconsider a relationship. Still, prepare your children for the possibility of rejection. Then allow them to decide whether they wish to initiate any communication.

Dear Annie: My father is a very sweet, elderly man, but he has an embarrassing problem. Whenever he speaks, he talks so quickly that he tends to accidentally spit at the person with whom he's conversing.

I've cringed at this so many times. No matter how nicely we tell him to slow down when he talks, he still does it. Mind you, it's not a dental or medical problem, or age related. He's done this all his life.

How do I deal with the embarrassment of introducing my friends and co-workers to my father — other than warning them to stand back five feet? — Beet-Red Face

Dear Beet Red: Have you told Dad that he spits, or do you just focus on how fast he talks? He may be unwilling to change his speech patterns if there is no overwhelming reason to do so, and he may be completely unaware that he is spraying his guests. Suggest he discuss it with his dentist and his doctor, because there may be underlying reasons that can be remedied. If nothing changes, there's not much more you can do. Allow your friends and co-workers to handle it as they choose, and you can apologize to them on Dad's behalf if you feel it is necessary.

Dear Annie: I think you may have overlooked something in your response to "Frustrated and Angry," who said her 11-year-old daughter stayed at a cousin's house and the uncle came into her room at night.

It doesn't say in the letter whether the cousin is a boy or a girl, and I'm not sure it matters. The father may be committing acts of incest with his own child. The cousin may be afraid to tell anyone. This is an important reason to do something about what happened. — Concerned in Texas

Dear Texas: Several readers pointed out that the attempt to molest his niece may indicate that the uncle has been molesting his child. And we agree that this is a possibility. We don't know whether the parents are willing to go to the police, but we hope they will confront the aunt and uncle, inform the rest of the family and do whatever they can to protect that cousin.

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