DEAR ABBY: My family was invited to my cousin "Kirk's" wedding -- a small affair for family and close friends only.
My brother "Ryan" and his wife, "Dawn," decided to schedule their daughter's first birthday party on the same day and not attend the wedding. The birthday party was at 4; the wedding at 6. The locations were an hour apart. We attended the birthday celebration and left early to get to the wedding on time, as did Mom and Dad.
As a gift, we chipped in to get Kirk and his bride, "Kallie," an upgrade on their cruise cabin. They loved it. Ryan and Dawn contributed as well. The bridal couple asked that, since Ryan and Dawn didn't attend, I thank them -- although they planned to send written formal thank-yous after their honeymoon. I called Ryan the next day to tell him Kirk and Kallie were appreciative, the wedding and reception were beautiful, and they were missed.
Six weeks have passed and my brother and sister-in-law refuse to speak to me. I learned they felt the phone call I placed after the wedding was "inappropriate." I was "throwing the wedding in their faces" and "had no right" to leave the birthday party. I apologized, but they still won't talk to me, though they're speaking to our parents. Ryan and I were inseparable as kids, but now what? -- HURT SIBLING IN MICHIGAN
DEAR HURT SIBLING: Unless there is more to the estrangement than what you have written, the problem could be that your brother has displaced his anger at your parents for not staying at the birthday party and directed it solely at you because it's "safer." Is it wrong? Yes. Childish? Yes. Can you do anything more than you already have to fix it? Probably not.
Your parents might take a moment to remind Ryan that they also left to attend the wedding, and that it would have been better to schedule the festivities earlier so that everyone could have stayed longer. But if Ryan and Dawn choose to hold a grudge, nothing you can do will change that until they're ready to let it go.
DEAR ABBY: My sister "Mimi" died two years ago. Throughout her 40-year marriage she and her husband lived away from family and barely kept in touch, although we were close while growing up. Since her death, my husband and I have tried to keep in touch with her husband, "Clint."
The problem is, when I call him, all he talks about is the past, when we were all in school. That's OK, but it invariably has some kind of sexual overtone -- about what I wore or did as a teen. I have tried redirecting the conversation to Mimi -- anything -- to no avail.
Now I'm wondering if my sister kept Clint away from the family for a reason. He was always like this to a degree, but it was under more control when she was alive.
What do I do when the conversation heads in this direction? I don't want to lose contact with him and their children. -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: The next time it happens, tell Clint in plain English that he's making you uncomfortable and tell him to quit dwelling on the past because it's boring. If that doesn't discourage him, call him only with your husband on another extension.
And as to staying in contact with your sister's children -- if their parents were married for 40 years, they are adults now. Contact them directly and let them know you care about them and want them to be a part of your lives because you are all family.
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