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Carolyn Hax: Struggling to be grateful for half of loaf

Dear Carolyn: My daughter will graduate from high school in June, and I informed our family of the date this past September.

My stepmother called a couple of weeks ago and informed me that my dad was coming to the graduation but that it would be a sacrifice, because he has a bad back and can barely walk of late.

She said she couldn’t come because a co-worker put in for the same time and it’s really difficult to get time off. She has been complaining for 20 years about her job and that she might be let go at any moment.

Now, my dad has informed me that he and my stepmother are taking a two-week vacation next week. Miraculously, his back is feeling better and my stepmother can get the time off.

This makes me confused because I thought it was hard for my stepmother to get time off, and my dad said she put in the request in January – four months after I told them the graduation date.

I’m stunned that, all of a sudden, my dad is better, and disappointed that my stepmother doesn’t want to come to my daughter’s graduation.

Am I crazy to think this is rude? Do I tell them of my disappointment? Or just chalk it up to her preferring a vacation to being with us? Actions speak louder than words, and it feels as if she doesn’t care about our family.

– What to Do?

A: Maybe she would rather vacation than see you, and maybe she doesn’t care about your family, and maybe she fibbed about his back and her time off.

But maybe her co-worker did grab the June vacation time before your stepmother did, and nobody had spoken for the April/May weeks she wanted for their vacation.

And maybe she does care about your family but finds graduations uncomfortable, dull and lousy for actually spending time with the guest of honor.

And maybe Dad’s back has improved.

And maybe she and your dad have a rich and full life that includes vacations, which they’re entitled to. And they still manage to show up to wave the flag for their families, which your dad is doing for his grandchild.

When someone hands you a piece of cake, you can be grateful for the indulgence, or you can be offended that you were handed just a piece instead of the whole thing.

You have that choice here. Your daughter is graduating, your dad will be there, and, hey, he’s feeling good and enjoying life with your stepmother – who may very well be dodging this graduation for all she’s worth, but also may not be.

That means you can choose to be grateful for what you have, or to reach for offense at not getting more.

I recommend the former.