DEAR ABBY: I'm the middle child. Our father died in the Gulf War. None of us really knew him, but my younger sister, "Delia," has no memory of him at all.
She has been acting out for years now, and has broken our mother's heart more times than I can count. Whenever she messes up, she blames it on not knowing our father and the life she "could" have led.
It has been 20 years, Abby. The past is the past. Delia continues to ruin her future and blame our mom. It has Mom wondering why she was able to survive this crisis 20 years ago but can't manage to deal with my sister.
I think Delia may have a chemical imbalance, or just never dealt with our father's death. How do you convince someone to get help? How do you make her see that Dad died so she could enjoy the many freedoms of America? -- DRAINED IN DELAWARE
DEAR DRAINED: I'm sorry for your family's loss, but we are all responsible for our own behavior and our own emotions. You can't force "help" on your dysfunctional sister. Before she'll be willing to accept that she needs it, she will have to accept that SHE has been responsible for her own mistakes and behavior. If your father had lived, her life might not have been any different than it is.
The person who COULD use some professional help might be your mother. Counseling might help her to quit trying to rescue her adult daughter, or blaming herself for the problems Delia has created for herself. I'm not saying it will be easy -- letting go rarely is. But it might improve her emotional and physical health.
DEAR ABBY: I am an attractive, physically fit, well-educated, 41-year-old divorced woman with two young children. Recently a co-worker I have known for several months asked me to accompany him on a weekend hiking trip. (He's 23.) After a few conversations, he confessed that he was "deeply in love" with me and hoped we could begin a "serious relationship."
Abby, he's mature, good-looking, financially independent and has a great sense of humor. I'm attracted to him. Should I pursue this relationship, or wait until I'm attracted to someone closer to my own age? Help. -- A.S. IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR A.S.: Whoa. Slow down. Regardless of the age difference, an overnight first date (with a co-worker, yet) seems like an awfully speedy beginning to me. If you're smart, start with a coffee date, graduate to a dinner date, and pursue the relationship from there. Only time will tell if this is the real thing.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have three daughters in their 20s and 30s. One of them, "Lauryn," is married with four children. She and her husband are behind in their mortgage, student loans, federal, state and property taxes, utilities, etc. Over the past 15 years, we have given them more than $40,000 to help them stay afloat. Things have not improved.
Now that my wife and I are retired, the money we provide is cutting into our retirement savings. We have begun to think our handouts should come at a cost.
We want to tell Lauryn and our son-in-law that the money we've given -- and have continued to give -- will count against their inheritance. It doesn't seem fair that we have given so much to this one daughter and her family and relatively little to her sisters. Do you agree? We'd appreciate your thoughts on this. -- LOVING PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
DEAR LOVING PARENTS: I do agree. And for that reason, you should discuss this issue with an attorney who specializes in estate planning, wills and trusts. Your other daughters should not suffer because Lauryn and her husband have been perpetually needy.