Office birthday celebration is no party for guest of honor
DEAR ABBY: I have a problem that happens once a year -- my birthday at work. There's a huge potluck with cake, banners, gifts and a card that has been circulating around the office for a week. I cringe at the attention. Everyone means well, but these celebrations are pure torture for me. I'm a 7-year-old all over again, trying my best to keep the anxiety and waterworks in check.
It goes back to my childhood. Growing up, we were very poor, and my parents made it clear that sacrifices had been made for my "big day," which always ended up with me guilt-ridden and in tears.
As an adult, I celebrate my birthday with my husband and son. We keep it low-key and I'm surrounded by the unconditional love I craved as a child.
I have tried bowing out and asked that gifts be made to charity instead, but I am told, "Oh, come on! We all have to go through this." I went so far as to confide to the party planners why I'm so uncomfortable. To my horror, a few of them began complaining about how hard they worked pulling everything together or how late they stayed up baking the cake, etc. It was like hearing my parents all over again.
Am I being too sensitive? I'd appreciate your opinion. -- SPARE ME IN MICHIGAN
DEAR SPARE ME: Because you have tried talking to your co-workers about the special circumstances surrounding your reason for not wanting an office celebration, it's time to talk to your supervisor or someone in human resources. I see no reason why you should have to suffer emotional stress so that everyone can have a party on your birthday.
And no, you are not being too sensitive. The party-planners have been insensitive.
DEAR ABBY: My mother never liked my paternal grandmother. Grandma "Jane" was tolerated, but often treated as an object of ridicule or contempt. My sister unquestioningly absorbed my mother's prejudice against her and is blatantly rude to her.
Over the years I have grown close to Grandma Jane. My husband and I visit her regularly. Dad knows, but says it's better if Mom doesn't know.
Grandma has asked me several times if I know why Mom dislikes her. She's in her 90s, isolated from her family and desperately searching for answers. I can only imagine it stems from some disagreement dating back to before I was born.
I am also sad that Dad won't visit his mother because Mom won't go with him. I can't believe Grandma Jane has done anything to deserve being forced to die alone, and it hurts knowing my mother would be so vindictive out of spite.
Grandma's good health can't last forever. I worry what will happen when she can no longer live independently. I believe in reconciliation, tolerance and a little maturity, but I know I am in the minority. What can I possibly do? -- LOYAL DAUGHTER, CARING GRANDDAUGHTER
DEAR LOYAL AND CARING: Not knowing the details of what caused the rift, I'm advising you to do as your father has suggested. If he were stronger, he would have insisted decades ago that his mother be treated with respect. That he would allow her to be ridiculed or treated rudely in his presence while he remained silent is shameful.
While you can't heal the breach, you can remain caring and supportive of your grandmother. When she can no longer live independently, she will need someone to help her or to move her to assisted living. The ideal person to watch over her then would be you.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.