Ask Amy: Elder neighbor wasn’t a peach
Dear Amy: “Bobbie,” an older neighbor of mine, was not a good person. Through the years, she did harmful things to me, which benefited her. Despite all that, I maintained a good relationship with her.
Bobbie befriended “Ted,” a divorced senior, and used him for many things — from driving her around, doing her yardwork, painting her house, and lending her a large sum of money to remodel her house.
She and Ted often went on short vacations together. After returning from one such trip, she went into a diatribe behind his back, trashed him and told me that she could not stand him. Yet she continued to go on trips with him.
After Bobbie had surgery, Ted came to her house daily to cook for her. I brought food for both of them, and learned later that she had eaten it all herself.
Bobbie passed away about a year ago and Ted took it very hard. He told me that Bobbie was a wonderful person who never said a bad word about anyone. I kept silent.
Many months have passed, and Ted is still grieving.
If Ted ever mentions again how wonderful Bobbie was, should I tactfully — without going into specifics — let him know that she was not the wonderful person he thought she was? Would telling the truth lessen his pain? Or would shattering his idealized image of her depress him even more? — Undecided
Dear Undecided: Informing “Ted” that he is a lousy judge of character will not diminish his grief. Instead, this very nice man will move forward feeling bad about himself, “Bobbie,” and you.
What greater good does this serve?
You seem to have way too high a stake in your late-neighbor’s relationship with her friend. She’s gone now, and you are free to remember her in your own way, but you should not feel compelled to influence how others remember her.
Dear Amy: I need to know if I am overreacting or if my daughter is putting her life at risk.
I’m 68 years old and live in a “mother-in-law” studio on my daughter “Kathy’s” property.
I see her and my grandkids every day and I love it!
During this pandemic, the kids are schooling at home. My daughter has been looking for new hobbies to keep them busy and engaged.
I recently learned that Kathy and all four of my grandkids have been exchanging letters with people. This means that some random strangers have my grandkids’ names and our physical address!
I asked Kathy what the bloody Hell she was doing, and she said she communicated with these people prior to exchanging addresses and that she checked out and confirmed their identities. She knows them through Facebook (I don’t do anything online).
She says lots of people are doing this and that she and the kids have made some nice friends through this pen pal thing.
I am shocked that she would be so stupid! She has no idea who these people are!
They could show up at her house and kill her and kill or kidnap the kids!
My son-in-law is no help; he told me it’s a fun thing for them to do.
I am begging you to tell them to stop! — Afraid Grandma
Dear Grandma: I agree with being cautious about beginning a correspondence with a pen pal, certainly when there are children involved.
Your daughter has been cautious, doing her best to confirm the identities of the people her children are corresponding with. Both parents are involved and engaged.
I do NOT share your hysteria about this. Pen pals have existed for as long as people have been able to send and receive letters. Many wonderful lifelong friendships have started with pen pal correspondences between strangers.
Yes, there is always a risk of revealing your identity and address to strangers, but individuals manage this risk every single day in their online worlds.
You would be wise to develop a friendly and nonjudgmental interest in this. That way, the children would be inspired to share their correspondence with you, enabling you to make sure it is not placing them at risk.
Dear Amy: I get frustrated sometimes when you refer to things in your column that I’ve never heard of. Not everyone is as familiar as you are with popular TV shows, movies, or books.
Please make your answers accessible for everyone. — Upset
Dear Upset: If you stumble across a reference you don’t know about, I hope you will look it up, or ask someone to fill you in.