My father-in-law may have pocketed part of a gift intended for my husband and his brother. But then again, maybe not! How can I navigate this situation with maximum tact and minimal drama? And more concretely, how does one write a thank-you note that gracefully specifies the exact amount of the gift?
posted by yersinia to human relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My husband's grandfather is fairly well-to-do, and he has traditionally given a very generous cash gift (generally $400) to each of his (birth) children and grandchildren around the holiday. Formerly, I gather that he tended to send the money in one lump sum to the parents, who then passed along the children's share to their kids; in recent years, he's just sent a check directly to each individual. This year, though, he reverted back to the single-check-to-the-parents mode, so on Christmas eve my husband and his sister each received a $400 check from their dad, on Grandfather's behalf. So far, so good.
Yesterday, my mother-in-law asked me, slightly awkwardly, how much my husband usually received from his grandfather at Christmas. Before I had a chance to answer, she went on to say that the group check from Grandpa this year had actually been for "a lot more than usual-- like, a couple of thousand dollars," and that while she'd wanted to just split the extra equally among the three gift recipients (my husband, his brother, and the parents), my Father-in-law had decided instead that they should use the excess to pay down some personal debt of their own, and just pass the standard $400 along to each of the two kids. I asked whether Grandfather had specified how he wanted the money to be distributed, and she said he hadn't. She seemed embarrassed and a little flustered, so I tried to be neutral and pleasant and changed the subject. I'm fairly sure nobody has mentioned anything about this to either my husband or his brother.
Now I'm feeling kind of odd and icky about the whole thing. Just to clarify: I'm not in any way grousing ungratefully about the amount of the gift. Grandfather is a wonderful person, and we would honestly love him equally whether he gave us a four-million-dollar gift or no gift at all for Christmas. Nor do I have any problem with the unequal distribution of the gift per se; kids are kids and grandkids are just grandkids, after all.
Assuming that Mother-in-Law was correct and Grandfather didn't specify a distribution ratio for his gift, I do think it's fairly ungenerous and unpaternal of the dad to silently skim off most of the gift for his own uses, especially given that my husband's parents live comfortably with a six-figure income while both kids are starving schoolteachers with young families to support. But while I have my own opinions about my inlaws' fiscal practices and overall altruism where money is concerned, they're in other respects lovely people, and we have a good relationship. I have no intention of bringing this up with them ever again.
My chief issue for MeFi, then, is what to do about the weird dishonest limbo surrounding the potential gap between the gift Grandfather thinks he gave and the gift we actually received. I am in charge of writing our family's thank-you notes, and what I would really like is to find a way to specify in this year's note to Grandfather exactly how much we received from him. That way, if the distribution was in accordance with his wishes, no harm is done, but if he intended things to go differently, at least he'll be aware of how things actually worked out. But it seems somehow crass to just write directly, "Thank you so much for the beautiful $400"-- in past years, I've just euphemized about "very generous gifts" and "kindness and generosity"-- and failing that, I'm not sure how else to gracefully integrate hard figures into a thank-you note.
1. Is there any non-crass way to specify the amount of a gift in a thank-you note?
2. Should I tell my husband about any of this? and
3. Am I a terrible, grasping, avaricious and/or meddling person for being at all concerned about this? Should I just leave the whole thing alone?