Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m being guilt-tripped, and emotionally manipulated by my in-laws.
Both of my parents are dead and my husband is the only one of his
sibs who moved more than three hours away from the mespochah.
They have a truly lovely summer house that we’ve visited every year
for fifteen years. This eats up one of my two weeks vacation. If you
add in visits to see them for holidays and medical crises (father-in- law
has Alzheimers and chronic conditions), I haven’t had a “real” vacation
in a very long time. Now they’re saying, “This could be the last year”
we can all be together there because they’re going to sell it. I’d fall for
this line if I hadn’t already fallen for it already for four years. Is there a
graceful way to decline, other than saying I want to spend my free
time with other folks, or at least not with them?

Dear Trapped:
Every family is organized around some collective dysfunction. Your
husband’s is no exception. The elders have had years to practice guilt-
tripping. The subliminal message is This may be the last time your
Father/in-law will recognize you, so come spend time with us while
he’s as good as he still is. That’s harder to resist than a summer

Like most good marketeers, your in-laws have identified a winning
sales technique. They’ve tested it, gotten good results, and decided to
keep singing the tune until it no longer works. Only you can decide if
that’s this year or next. I’d bet a plane flight that even if you say No,
you’ll get the same pitch for the next holiday or special occasions. Your
only polite answer is, I’m running low on vacation time. I need to save
it for a crisis, if [F-i- L name] has another episode. I want to be able to
come when you need us, so we’re putting health ahead of pleasure.
Most folks are squeamish about invoking illness when there isn’t one
so you may buy yourself a year. But no longer. For what it’s worth,
you won’t get more chances once he’s gone.