As guests come to town for ‘cel­e­bra­tion of life,’ wi­dow is feel­ing over­whelmed

The Washington Post - - TELEVISION - New Miss Man­ners col­umns are posted Mon­day through Satur­day on wash­ing­ton­­vice. You can send ques­tions to Miss Man­ners at her web­site, miss­man­ ©2018, by Ju­dith Mar­tin Miss Man­ners JU­DITH MAR­TIN, NI­CHOLAS MAR­TIN AND JA­COBINA MAR­TIN

Dear Miss Man­ners: My hus­band died at age 80. He was a highly es­teemed pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus, and I will be host­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of his life in a fa­cil­ity on cam­pus. There will be two dozen speak­ers, fol­lowed by a re­cep­tion with food and wine dur­ing two hours on a Fri­day af­ter­noon.

From cor­re­spon­dences re­ceived af­ter his death, it ap­pears that there will be per­haps 200 peo­ple at­tend­ing this func­tion, many of whom will travel sig­nif­i­cant dis­tances, even across the coun­try.

My son feels that there should be an af­ter-party for those who are from very far out of town. I, too, feel it will be awk­ward for peo­ple who have trav­eled long dis­tances to be aban­doned but feel over­whelmed as to how this might be ar­ranged. There is no for­mula for de­ter­min­ing when to stop once an event, any event, has grown beyond the range of the lo­cal bus routes. Brides, hav­ing pre­sum­ably lost their heads once over their hus­bands-to-be, are oddly sus­cep­ti­ble to los­ing it a sec­ond time over the cel­e­bra­tions. The cer­e­mony and re­cep­tion are sup­ple­mented by pos­si­bly nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal ac­com­mo­da­tions, which be­comes group ho­tel pur­chases, which be­come lists of lo­cal res­tau­rants, which be­come af­ter-par­ties, which be­come other lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment, which be­comes bri­dal trips to the wa­ter park the day af­ter.

But de­spite the nomen­cla­ture — “cel­e­bra­tion of life,” “af­ter-party” — yours is not such a happy oc­ca­sion. There is a mourner — you — whom the other mourn­ers (note Miss Man­ners does not say “guests”) are there to sup­port, not bur­den. State fu­ner­als are mul­ti­day af­fairs, but they are also not planned by the griev­ing wi­dow. It is up to you to de­cide how much additional en­ter­tain­ing you can do and up to the at­ten­dees to re­spect your de­ci­sion. Dear Miss Man­ners: My in-laws fre­quently give us phys­i­cally large gifts for our young chil­dren. These have ranged from ex­tremely large toys to a nice kids’ ta­ble and chairs that we re­ally just don’t have room for and frankly don’t want.

I un­der­stand they are be­ing very gen­er­ous, and in the past, I’ve just said “thank you” and tried to work it in. The prob­lem is this stuff is just so big that it’s pil­ing up, and it’s also ob­vi­ous if we’ve got­ten rid of it.

Is it ever ap­pro­pri­ate to talk about gift-giv­ing be­fore or af­ter gifts have been given? Does it mat­ter that these are my hus­band’s par­ents, whom we have a good re­la­tion­ship with, and also that these are gi­gan­tic presents? If we’re to say noth­ing, do I just act eva­sive when they ask where the tram­po­line is? And what do I tell my kids to say? The size can be an as­set in­stead of a li­a­bil­ity. Iden­tify a fixed, prefer­ably prom­i­nent, lo­ca­tion as the Grand­par­ents’ Gift Corner. When next year’s gift ar­rives, re­move and re­place last year’s. Miss Man­ners trusts that the rev­er­ence thus given to each year’s gift — as well as the logic be­hind the ar­range­ment — will blunt any ques­tions about the ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pile in the base­ment.

There is a mourner — you — whom the other mourn­ers (note Miss Man­ners does not say “guests”) are there to sup­port, not bur­den.

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