DEAR ABBY: Five years ago, my older brother had an accident and needed to live at my parents’ house while he recovered. He brought along his 4-year-old dog, “Pepper.” The dog needed to be on a special diet.
My father, who is a major alcoholic, enjoyed having Pepper there, but because he is an alcoholic, you can’t tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear. Because my brother had been seriously hurt and was in a hospital bed and wheelchair, my father fed the dog. Despite my brother’s pleas, my father fed Pepper whatever he wanted — including chocolate. It made Pepper very sick, and he was dead within three months. The vet said it was because of what my father fed him.
My brother blew up at my father. He called him every name in the book, concluding with the comment that my father was a filthy drunk who deserved to die in the gutter. Despite his injuries, my brother left the house and has never spoken to us again. Regrettably, my mother and I were both dependent on my father and didn’t want to anger him, so we took his side.
A month ago, I decided to track my brother down. He is now married and lives out of the country with his wife, daughter and in-laws. My brother told me he’s sorry for not staying in touch with me, but he no longer wishes to speak to our parents. My mother is pressing me for information, but I am afraid to tell her and my father anything. Should I tell my parents about my brother?
— ABANDONED SISTER
DEAR SISTER: I’m guessing your parents wouldn’t be pressing you for information if you hadn’t revealed to them that you found your brother. If that’s the case, that was a mistake. If you must reveal anything, tell them your brother is well and happy, but hasn’t changed his feelings about them and still wants no contact.
DEAR ABBY: I just received a brief, friendly email from my husband’s grandmother. In it she asked me if our newest addition was “a good baby.” That phrase is a pet peeve of mine.
When she was talking about how my mother-in-law wasn’t a good baby, I told her that all babies are good babies. I may not be as upset as I am by her using those words if she wasn’t terrible with children (e.g., overly strict, too-high expectations) and if she didn’t have a knack for getting into fights with and complaining about nearly everyone.
I want to respond to her email, but I can’t bring myself to agree with the premise that the possibility exists that my infant, or any infant for that matter, could be anything other than a good baby. I also don’t want to start a fight with her that would seem petty, and I don’t want to blow off her email. What should I do?
— INCENSED IN INDIANA
DEAR INCENSED: In the interest of whatever family harmony is left intact in “Granny’s” wake, limit the drama and give her a brief reply that doesn’t refer to “good babies” — something like, “It was good to hear from you.” Period.
DEAR ABBY: How may I delicately encourage my delightful European boyfriend to wear deodorant? I am not the only one who has noticed. He is otherwise very hygienic.
— HOLDING MY NOSE
DEAR HOLDING: Consider approaching the subject this way: “You know, ‘Jacques,’ here in the United States, we have some ‘peculiar’ standards of personal hygiene” ... then explain what they entail. Yes, body odors are “natural,” but not if they knock someone over from four feet away.