Dear Amy: My partner, “Chas,” and I have been together for 30 years.
My sister “Shelly” introduced us. Shelly and Chas are very old friends; in fact, Chas is her daughter’s godfather.
Chas tend to be quiet and low-key; Shelly is bubbly and loves attention.
Throughout these years, we have shared various family gatherings and vacations. We get out of it well.
Recently, Shelly invited us to a family dinner. Chas had just been operated on and could not attend. He sent his greetings and apologies and I went alone. We had a very cozy, lively evening.
Two days later, our brother sent an email to Shelly and me about some other different things.
Globally, he had created his email on top of an exchange he and Shelly had the day after the most recent dinner.
Shelly was thrilled at how great we all felt, “mostly because Chas was not here.”
I was (and am) amazed. I sent a brief reply to both, saying, “I did not seem to realize how unwelcome Chas is to these gatherings.”
Shelly wrote to me, “I know it was super unkind, and I hope you will forgive me.”
I do not have the answer. I have not breathed a word of this into Chas, who would be dazzled and deeply hurt. Shelly wrote again: “[Brother] gets me started and the words just come out. I miss you.”
I do not even know if I want to correct this. I have two siblings who share silly remarks about my partner behind my back!
Carrying this on your own is painful.
I need a lot of time and space to get over this and am not sure I have the bandwidth to handle it. any thoughts?
The blind side
Dear blind side: You are entitled to feel hurt and you did the right thing to call them out.
My thoughts are: Of course siblings grumble and gossip when they do not think they will be caught!
I assume that you and Shelly may have cheated on your brother, spouses or in-laws over the years. There are probably times when you are relieved when someone’s spouse needs to stay home and you have some solo time with your siblings.
Your sister has known Chas longer than you. She may feel comfortable crying about him because he is a de facto family member.
She gave a quick and sincere apology (it was maybe a little too quick). She has asked you to forgive her.
What she has not done is to explain what was behind her statement and therefore she owns her point of view. You did not ask her to either.
When you feel more united, you should sincerely and accurately express how you feel and ask Shelly to explain herself.
Dear Amy: Our daughter died of cancer.
To begin with, there were a lot of “I had the kind of cancer she’s probably going to get along with” followers. We / she heard all the other well-meaning (but not so helpful) comments.
As the cancer progressed, there were fewer who had anything to say until our daughter one day noticed that none of her friends were visiting or calling anymore.
She gracefully accepted that they probably just did not know what to say or do and that they were uncomfortable when they came to visit, simply because.
Except for a very few. They came anyway.
They sat with her and often said nothing. Sometimes they talked. Sometimes they shared a meal or took a nap together. Sometimes they just stopped by to say “hello” and share a quick hug.
They provided a presence that said more than words could possibly convey.
This presence lifted our daughter’s spirit more than anything else, especially toward the end.
Whether it’s a fatal disease, the loss of a loved one, or any other unfortunate major life event, people do not need to know the “right” things to say.
Just showing up and thus reassuring the sufferer that he is still loved and part of life, part of the world going on around them, is a greater gift.
A grateful parent
Dear parent: Thank you so much for sharing this heartbreaking experience. You have offered a very deep and important lesson: It is OK not to know what to say. But life is really about showing up.
Dear Amy: Thank you so much for dedicating your column on Veterans Day to Vietnam veterans and their families. Every single letter brought tears to my eyes.
Dear grateful: So many veterans contacted me and gave their very moving and valuable testimonies. I am very grateful to them all.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.