DEAR ABBY: My children and I were living with a maniac who threatened to kill me if I took the kids and ran. We reached out to his family, hoping they would intervene and tell him they knew what he was doing to us. We wanted someone to stand up to him.
His sister said: "I don't want to hear this. I love my brother. I don't want to think about him doing these things, so don't tell me these stories!"
His father said, "What did you do to provoke him?"
His brother and his wife were sympathetic, but said there was nothing they could do.
The last violent episode ended with the children and me locking ourselves in the bathroom while my husband screamed and tried to break the door down for half an hour. When he finally stopped, I called his dad who said, "Do you know what time it is? You woke me up!" He hung up the phone so fast I didn't get to tell him what his son had done to our autistic son.
After getting help from outside sources, we finally felt safe enough to leave. We're now divorced, and my daughter wants nothing to do with her father's side of the family. Her granddad can't figure out why she won't talk to him, and her aunt has no clue why my daughter refuses to visit.
Abby, please urge family members to step up to the plate. Be supportive and ask what you can do to help. Lives could be saved in the process, in more ways than one. -- HEARTBREAK IN THE HEARTLAND
DEAR HEARTBREAK: I'm doing as you requested, but if your husband didn't suffer from severe mental problems, he probably learned his abusive ways from his own father, while his sister grew up in denial about her family's dysfunction, and his brother was trained to feel "helpless."
I'm pleased you were finally able to take control of your lives and get out of there. Now please, teach your daughter a lesson in assertiveness. Tell her she has nothing to gain by remaining silent, and she should tell her grandfather why she no longer talks to him, and her aunt why she no longer wants her in her life. Doing so will make her stronger.
DEAR ABBY: We recently moved into our dream house. We bought it from an elderly man who had lived there alone after his wife died seven years ago.
While exploring the property, we found a small gravestone with the name "Sparkle" engraved on it. We assume this was a former pet of the owner, but he never mentioned it to us.
Some of us want to dig it up and see what is really buried there. Others think we should just remove the stone. Or should we let it stay where it is? -- UNSETTLED IN ALTOONA
DEAR UNSETTLED: Take a vote. If the majority thinks the old man might have "forgotten" the family jewels, then see what's down there. But be prepared to find nothing more than the moldering remains of a beloved family pet.
Personally, I vote for leaving things as they are -- unless you're planning on re-landscaping the property, in which case you could remove the stone and let Sparkle continue to R.I.P.
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