DEAR ABBY: My wife's niece is marrying a wonderful man of Greek descent this summer. Her grandfather insists that his last name is too long and impossible to pronounce. He thinks they need to change the name when they marry. He went so far as to make them call him so he could tell them what he wanted. Then he gave them 10 days to "think about it" and call him back with their answer.
He told the mother of the bride that if they don't change the name, then he's "just not into the wedding anymore," implying that he won't help them pay for the event. Needless to say, this has most of the family shaking their heads and thinking the old man has finally lost it.
We understand that this was common practice for families passing through Ellis Island coming to America a century ago, but have you ever heard of this being done for a wedding? Being a therapist, I thought I'd seen and heard it all - until now. Please give us some insight. I'm hoping his "lady friend" will read your reply and share it with him. - CAN'T BELIEVE IT DOWN SOUTH
DEAR CAN'T BELIEVE IT: You have described a man who is used to being in control and is not above using his money to manipulate. A century ago when people came to this country through Ellis Island, many of them were escaping discrimination and wanted to leave their past behind them, which is why they Americanized their names.
Others had it done "for" them by government officials who couldn't understand them when they pronounced their names and wrote down what they thought they heard. (Years ago, in Sioux City, Iowa, my mother knew two brothers who walked through different lines and wound up with the names "Ginsberg" and "Landsberg." I don't know which was correct.) Still others were so eager to become "Americans" that they shortened or changed their names for that reason.
I sincerely hope no one is expecting Granddad to pay for the upcoming wedding. That he would attempt to blackmail the young couple in this way is shameful. Let's hope they are mature enough to ignore him, and that they have a long and happy life together. Opa!
DEAR ABBY: Our youngest daughter will graduate from college next month. The school is 10 hours away by car or a 2 1/2-hour plane ride. There are no direct flights.
My husband and I are excited about this special day, and so is his 82-year-old mother. (I'll call her Ethel.) She mentioned yesterday that she's excited to go.
Abby, Ethel is not a well woman. She has trouble walking, falls occasionally and hasn't been out of this town for 30 years. She is also hypercritical. She does nothing but complain about other people, her health, this country, etc. Looking after her would be a huge burden.
We'd like to attend this milestone event without the added stress of taking care of her. My husband and I have been married 25 years, and Ethel still complains about me. Because she's such a handful, we have never taken her to dinner or a movie. How do we (kindly) tell her that what she has in mind is not going to be possible? - READY TO CELEBRATE IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR READY TO CELEBRATE: You and your husband should tell his mother that graduations in the best of circumstances are stressful events and can be difficult for someone who is unsteady on her feet. You could also mention that seating is limited because it often is at graduations. Then offer to videotape the ceremony so she doesn't have to miss it.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.