DEAR ABBY: My half-brother, "Jace," and I had a complicated childhood. My father had an explosive temper and a disdain for children in general. He was abusive, and our mentally ill mother was absent during his rages.
I had my share of abuse, but it was nothing compared to how Jace was treated. His biological father lived in another state and rarely made contact, and my father never formally adopted him. It left Jace with profound feelings of abandonment.
My parents are finally divorced now. Afterward, Dad's behavior toward me changed dramatically. He's no longer abusive and is even fun to be around. However, he still maintains a palpable distance from Jace.
Jace is an exceptional person with an outgoing personality and a zest for life. He has two beautiful children and one more on the way. Dad has seen the oldest only once, and that was after I begged him for months to visit. It saddens me, and I end up overcompensating by spoiling Jace's kids with gifts, even though I live 2,000 miles away.
I know I can't make Dad be a part of Jace's life, but he's the only father Jace has ever known. Is there any way to open Dad's eyes? If not, how can I fill the gap? -- SADDENED SISTER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SISTER: Regardless of how your father's attitude toward you has changed, he will never get my vote for Father of the Year. That he took out his frustrations on you and your brother is despicable. He never accepted Jace, and from the time he married your mother considered her son to be excess baggage -- nothing more.
You cannot force open the eyes of someone whose heart is closed, so quit trying. You already do more than your share to "fill the gap" as a loving aunt, but understand that Jace's children will never miss what they have never known.
Fortunately, your brother seems to be emotionally resilient. It appears he has gone on with his life. He is married and is building a new family, which may help him heal the abuse he suffered as a young man. However, if he cannot let go of his feelings of abandonment, he should consult a licensed psychotherapist because it may take professional help to put his past to rest.
DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Mona," and I decided to separate a few months ago. She filed for divorce, and during the two months cooling-off period we spent a lot of time talking to each other. After some consideration, we reconciled.
Now that we're back together, I have learned that Mona sold her wedding ring to pay for some living expenses. We discussed purchasing another one, but apparently it's not a top priority on her to-do list. She has also said she doesn't want to buy her own ring or split the cost. I still wear mine, but feel as though I'm the only one who's committed to the relationship. Any thoughts? -- HAVING DOUBTS IN DALLAS
DEAR HAVING DOUBTS: I'll give you my gut reaction. A wedding ring does not make a marriage; love, commitment and concern for the feelings of the other party do. That Mona got rid of the ring so quickly tells me she was also through with the marriage.
Who buys the next ring is the least of your worries. Listen to your gut. It's sending you an important message. You and Mona are not out of the woods yet. Hie thee to a marriage counselor.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)
to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600