Dear Annie: More than 30 years ago, my brother “Zach” was married for several years to “Ruth,” who had an affair with an older man and left him to marry the new guy. She became pregnant during their last year of marriage, but when she left, she told Zach that she’d had a miscarriage. After a very bitter divorce, there was no communication between them, and the rest of us followed suit.
Zach died in an accident 23 years ago, leaving a young widow and a 6-month-old son. I recently ran into an old acquaintance who lives in the same city as Ruth and is now widowed. He told me he’d recently met Ruth’s son and said the young man looked exactly like Zach. He is totally convinced that this is my brother’s child whom Ruth claimed to have miscarried.
To complicate matters, Ruth’s mother attends my church. We are cordial but not close, and of course, she has never said anything about this to me. I just heard that she is moving to an assisted-living facility in the city where Ruth now resides.
There are a lot of people who would be affected by finding out that Zach had another son, not least my mother. I discussed the matter with my sisters, and we decided to just let it go. Mom was devastated when Zach died so many years ago, and we don’t think she could handle this type of news. However, I wonder if we should get the facts from Ruth’s mother before she leaves town. Surely, she would know whether the young man is our nephew.
Would there be any reason to do this, or should we leave well enough alone?
— Troubled but Want To Do the Right Thing
Dear Troubled: The person most affected by this news would be Zach’s son by his second wife. He could have a half-brother. Because of that, you might want to do a little additional investigating, although we urge you to be cautious. It’s possible that Ruth’s mother doesn’t know any more than you do, and it would be cruel to harass her. And Ruth could deny it, even if it is true. Leave whatever information you have with your nephew. The choice to pursue things further should be his.
Dear Annie: I recently held an 80th birthday party for my father, which naturally included a great many seniors over age 75. My sister and her two daughters, both in their 20s, sat down as soon as they arrived and stayed in their seats after the older guests arrived. Our townhouse has limited seating, and although I provided 35 folding chairs, some of these people still had no place to sit down.
As hostess, was it my responsibility to tell my sister and her children to give up their seats? Our mother did not raise us to be so inconsiderate, and I was embarrassed that this happened. What should I have done?
— Embarrassed Hostess
Dear Hostess: Yes, it would have been OK to discreetly and politely ask your nieces whether they would mind giving up their seats for Dad’s friends. If they had objected, of course, there wasn’t much more you could do. But when planning an event that includes a great many seniors, please try to have enough chairs on hand to seat everyone. (You don’t have to put all of them out unless needed.)
Dear Annie: I read “A Faithful Reader’s” response to “Mom,” who waits up for her 18-year-old daughter to come home. She said to set an alarm near Mom’s bed.
My sister-in-law is one of three sisters and two brothers. Their mother set up a similar alarm. The girls had to be home at a certain hour, but the boys did not. Well, the girls would come home, turn it off, say goodnight and then sneak back out. One ended up pregnant at 18. The brothers? They became priests.
— Alarm Not the Answer
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