Ask Amy: Grandmother doubles down on birthday gift

September 26, 2012

DEAR AMY: My grandmother is always punctual about sending birthday cards to all her grandchildren. On my last birthday a few months ago, her card did not come on time in the mail as it usually does.

I didn’t take offense because it was around the first anniversary of the passing of my beloved grandfather and, as my grandmother is approaching her mid-80s, she has become more forgetful.

I wasn’t going to say anything to my grandmother, but my mother kindly told her on the phone a couple weeks later that she had forgotten about my birthday. My grandmother was extremely apologetic and sent me a card right away with money enclosed.

I received another birthday card from my grandmother yesterday. Inside was a check and a little note saying how sorry she was about the delay. I now have two birthday cards from her with money inside.

Is it wrong to keep the money? Is it appropriate to send the money back to her and a second thank-you card? How should I handle this? -- A Not-So-Happy Birthday

DEAR NOT: Age, and the stress of dealing with loss and grief, can bring on distraction or forgetfulness. Give your mother a heads up.

Send the second check back to your grandmother with a note saying, “This year, I have been lucky to get two birthday greetings from you, but you have been overly generous, so I’m returning this second check to you.

“I hope you don’t feel pressured to keep up with all the birthdays in your calendar, Grandma. Most of all I want you to know how much I love you and how much I appreciate all of these reminders of what you mean to me.”

Use this as a reason to keep in closer touch with your grandmother. She sounds like a peach.

DEAR AMY: My niece contacted me and said she was coming to an event near my home. She wondered whether she and her family could stay at my home during the weekend.

I was happy to have them, and they had a good time. They all swam in my pool, soaked in my hot tub, shot pool in my game room, etc. My wife and I cooked for them.

Their final evening, we all went out to dinner (six of them and two of us), and when the bill came, it was placed on the table between my nephew and me. He never made a move, so I finally reached for it and paid for it all. He didn’t offer to share, and in not doing so, didn’t even give me the chance to express my generosity and say, “I’ve got it.” I felt disappointed and used.

How do you feel about this? The next time they ask to stay, how do I gracefully decline? -- Upset Uncle

DEAR UNCLE: Your niece and her husband should have picked up the check. If you wanted to nudge them in the right direction, you could have said, “Bart, let’s settle up, here,” getting out your wallet while sliding the check toward his coffee cup.

I hope you receive an overflowing gift basket as a thank-you for your hospitality.

Declining to be a host is actually relatively easy. You just say, “Oh, we can’t host you this time. Do you want the number for a local bed and breakfast? We’d love to see you while you’re in the area.”

DEAR AMY: “Breathless in the Midwest” described how challenging it would be for her to stay with her mother while on vacation because of her mother’s smoking. I’m surprised you didn’t suggest she stay in a hotel! -- Surprised Reader

DEAR READER: I suggested that “Breathless” should see whether her mother had a friend nearby whom she might be able to stay with in case she was on a tight budget.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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