Brother returns to hometown with lots of family baggage

Published 8:51 am Friday, January 15, 2021

DEAR ABBY: My brother, who lives 1,000 miles away, is thinking of moving back to our hometown to be around family and “start over.” I love him. He’s not a bad person, but he was a terrible father. He is now a widower, and he suffers from depression.
The problem is, some of his children and adult grandchildren plan to move with him. The “children” and their children are felons, ex-cons, drug addicts, alcoholics and thieves. My brother is none of those things.
I am willing to welcome him, but my husband and I want nothing to do with his kids or grandkids. I don’t trust them to be in my house. There’s no way we will welcome them into our family or do whatever it is they expect of us to start a new life. I don’t think it is our responsibility. My children (their cousins) want nothing to do with them, either. How do I handle this? — STANDING FIRM IN IOWA

DEAR STANDING: Before your brother makes the move to your community, ASK him what his plans are regarding making a new start. While you’re at it, inquire about what his children and grandchildren intend to do after they arrive. Listen carefully to what your brother has to say, then tell him that, because of their criminal history, you and your husband cannot comfortably entertain them in your home. Say it kindly but firmly, and do not allow yourself to be drawn into a debate about it. From your description of them, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of 21 years was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three years ago. Our children are now adults. We had a fabulous life, lots of laughter, lots of travel, lots of friends. Then everything came to a screeching halt, and the past seems a dream. I try to remain optimistic, but his doctors have given us more bad news. Today he is not in pain, and his naps have slowed down. I work full-time, but he had to retire.
With COVID, it’s hard to go anywhere with him. How do I stop feeling guilty if after work I want to go to a friend’s house for an hour or two, or to dinner at an outdoor restaurant? Or a drive to clear my head? I know I’ll soon be wishing I could sit on the couch and watch TV with him again, but lately, I just need to carve out a small slice of time for me. — GUILTY IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR GUILTY: Do not beat yourself up for being human. When a beloved spouse is terminally ill, it is extremely stressful for both the patient and the caregiver. This is why it is important for your own health to allow time for yourself. How much time can vary from individual to individual, but it must be enough to rejuvenate.
Your husband needs you, but he also needs you to be your best self so you can provide physical and emotional support during this important final chapter. If you were to talk about this with him, I am sure he would tell you that I am right. If you let your conscience guide you, you won’t go wrong, and you will have fewer regrets.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact 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 your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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