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by Abigail Van Buren

Dad Puzzled by How to Explain His Parents' Childish Behavior

DEAR ABBY: I've never written to you before, but I think you blew it in your answer to "In the Middle in Tucson." Her sister was so upset about the "tacky gifts" her daughter had received from their brother and his new wife that she severed the relationship with her own brother.

What is this world coming to when we are so shallow that we value gifts over our own flesh and blood? My advice to her would have been: "Lady, wake up! Tell your sister that life is too short to hold a grudge for something as trivial as what kind of a present someone gives."

The wife may not have been deliberately rude; perhaps she was trying to be thrifty. The brother may not even realize where the gifts came from (most men have little to do with gift-buying); maybe their family finances aren't in quite as good shape as she thinks they are. There could a lot of other "maybes" -- and the sister just doesn't realize it.

If something were to happen to her brother before she was able to make things right between the two of them, she would never forgive herself. If she doesn't like the gifts her daughter received from this auntie and uncle, she should shut her mouth and give them to someone who could really use them -- or simply throw them away. But don't destroy a relationship that is a God-given gift.

Abby, I don't mean this letter to be a put-down to you, but your answer seemed to encourage the sister to drive that wedge in more firmly. Family is far too precious to throw away because of something so meaningless. -- ALSO A SISTER IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR NORTH CAROLINA SISTER: You misunderstood my answer. The sister who severed the relationship with her brother deserves the lecture you gave her. However, my reply was directed at the OTHER sister, who wondered if she should try to mediate the dispute or stay mum. I told her to encourage her sister to communicate her feelings to her brother, so they could be dealt with in an adult manner.