DEAR ABBY: My grandmother is 75 years old and, unfortunately, very unpleasant to be around. She has made many hurtful remarks in the past, which have led some family members to shut her out of their lives.
I live in another state and don't see my grandmother very often. I call her once or twice a month. When I do, she's nothing but pleasant with me, but she's often angry and tearful about other members of the family.
She feels her children and grandchildren should respect her as the matriarch of the family and include her in all family get-togethers. (My family tells me they have stopped inviting her to many functions because she's such a troublemaker.)
I'm concerned about my grandmother and am beginning to think that my parents and siblings should overlook her unpleasant behavior and occasional snide remarks. At the very least they should include her in important family functions. I'd be interested in your opinion, so I can share it with my family.
— Troubled in Minnesota
DEAR TROUBLED: Your grandmother appears to be reaping what she has sown. Verbal abuse often leaves scars on those at whom it is aimed, and no one can be blamed for wanting distance from a person who is deliberately hurtful.
Respect is something that has to be earned. Your parents and siblings “respect” your grandmother from a distance because they have learned it's the only safe way to do so.
Does this mean she should automatically be excluded from all family get-togethers? No. However, before she's invited to an important event, she should give assurances that she'll watch her mouth and be on her best behavior. Or else.
If this seems heavy-handed, so be it. It's no crime to protect oneself from someone else's mean-spiritedness.