DEAR ABBY: Our oldest son, “Jim,” has a history of turning his back on people once he has used them, which has left us in financial ruin. Our most recent bailout went to our younger son, who went into business with Jim. To make a long story short, Jim was greedy and impatient and plundered the company funds, which left the business destroyed.

Jim and his wife have now disowned us and are holding our two granddaughters “hostage” as punishment because we told them what he did was wrong. My husband, who adopted both of my sons, is devastated because Jim has now contacted his biological father and no longer acknowledges the only father he has known.

I have been labeled the “horrible” woman who “hurt her son deeply” and whose granddaughters will be told “the truth” when they’re old enough to decide if they want a relationship with me.

We are heartsick. How do we handle this, and what do we do regarding our granddaughters and our relationship with them? — SAD DAY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SAD DAY: Handle it by reminding yourselves that you did the best job you could in raising both your sons, and that despite a parent’s best efforts, not all children turn out the way their parents hope they will. Keep the lines of communication open for your granddaughters by sending them cards and/or gifts on special occasions to let them know you love and think about them.

You also go on with your lives and devote yourselves to each other and to the son who returns your affection, because to do anything else is a waste of time. What you DON’T do is continue dwelling on your heartache and disappointment and allow yourselves to be dragged down.

P.S. Do not write Jim and his wife off just yet, because bad pennies usually turn up.

DEAR ABBY: I work in the emergency department of a hospital. Based on our daily observations, my co-workers and I compiled a short list of commonsense guidelines to help the public understand how an emergency department really works.

1. An “emergency” is defined as a life-threatening injury or illness. The average wait in an ER waiting room is 4 1/2 hours. After checking in, you will be seen by a triage nurse to determine the seriousness of your illness or injury. Patients who are considered “critical” will be treated first.

2. Please do not come to the ER with your entire family unless they, too, are sick or injured. People with communicable diseases may be sitting in the lobby, so you could be putting your loved ones at risk.

3. Once inside the examination room, the patient’s blood will be taken and tests may be done. Getting test results can take time, especially if the ER is busy — and no, you cannot eat or drink until those test results are back.

4. The ER discharges patients 24 hours a day, so plan accordingly. The hospital is not responsible for paying for your ride home, and you cannot stay in the exam room waiting for a ride to come for you. We must use the room for the next patient.

5. Above all, remember that our staff is here to help you feel better, not to inconvenience you. You are the patient — so please be patient. — ER NURSE IN FLORIDA

DEAR ER NURSE: Your comments are certainly worth space in my column. With so many people out of work and uninsured, I am sure that hospital emergency departments have been swamped with more people seeking help than ever. They need to know what to expect, and your guidelines are helpful. Thank you for sharing them.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby — Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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