Dear Annie: My stepdaughter is 49 and in the hospital with terminal cancer. We live three hours away, but try and see her once a week. Her husband's family also visits often.
What I can't figure out is that on my husband's side of the family, there are three aunts and four first cousins who all live in the same city, but not one of them has visited. These cousins played together as children. My husband's twin sister feels fine about it because she and the other siblings chipped in and sent flowers. Wow! Yet I know for a fact they all will be crying at the funeral. What a bunch of hypocrites.
I think these are selfish people who can't be bothered with a sick person. I would like to give them a piece of my mind, but my husband says, "What goes around comes around." I sure hope you print this before my stepdaughter passes away. Maybe one of them will read it and feel guilty. Stepmom from Canada
Dear Canada: Even if they did, it's no guarantee your letter will change their behavior. Some people simply cannot deal with illness or death, especially when it involves someone close. They stick their heads in the sand and pretend it isn't serious, hoping if they continue to lead normal lives, everything will remain normal.
Can you offer to pick up "Aunt Sue" and take her to the hospital with you? She might be more inclined to go. Regardless, your husband is right that life has a way of evening out, and it won't provide any comfort if you rail against his relatives. You are a loving stepmother, and he surely needs your steadiness at this difficult time.
Dear Annie: Two months ago, we moved into a small, upscale neighborhood. We've met a couple of the neighbors, but only to say hello. We have, however, made the acquaintance of one of the neighbors' cats.
This cat has made us its new family. I don't mind if it comes over for affection, but it sits in front of our door and waits for us to come home. If it sees us inside, it scratches on the window and screen to be let in. We had the garage door open the other day, and the cat strolled inside.
I don't mind petting the cat, but I don't feel comfortable picking it up, and my son is quite allergic. Thankfully, my daughter has been here to take it outside, but she has now gone off to university and I am really tired of not being able to get into my own house without worrying if this cat is going to sneak in.
I don't want to make enemies in my new neighborhood, but this situation is annoying. I have looked into some of the chemicals that are supposed to keep animals away, but I don't know if they are safe. By the way, the cat does not wear a collar, and I'm pretty sure it has given me fleas. Mostly Just Annoyed
Dear Annoyed: Do you know the owners? Pay a visit and explain that your son is terribly allergic and you're so sorry, but you really can't have their adorable cat near your house. (The owners also may be in violation of local ordinances about roaming pets.) If you don't know the owners and the cat has no identification, you would not be faulted for assuming the cat is a stray. Call the humane society.
Dear Annie: We recently were invited to celebrate a relative's birthday at a local restaurant, and we all brought gifts. When we arrived, the server asked which couples were together so she could keep the checks separate. Many of us were surprised. We assumed we were guests. Some of us would not have chosen this restaurant had we known we had to pay for our own meals.
How can we know if we are guests or not? Perplexed
Dear Perplexed: When invited to a birthday party, it is correct to assume you are a guest unless told otherwise. However, a lot of ignorant people these days think being a guest means you pay for everything. Sorry.
E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox™, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.