DEAR ABBY: After my mom passed away, my dad lived alone for three years until his death. During those three years, Mom's family not once made contact with him or me. Dad lived in a very small town. When he would see Mom's sister and her husband out and about in restaurants and stores, they would ignore him.
After Dad's death, my aunt contacted me asking if she could have a rocking chair that belonged to my mother. I agreed they could have it. To my shock, when my uncle arrived to pick up the chair, he began asking me about my dad's belongings. He wanted to look through Dad's tools and such. After making no attempt to contact Dad while he was alive, now that he's gone, my uncle had the nerve to ask to look through Dad's things?! I politely shut him down.
Since then, my aunt has been bad-mouthing me all over town, telling everyone "I dropped them" and "don't want anything to do with them." I suppose that's true under the circumstances, but what should I say to set the record straight without appearing as the bad guy? -- "ORPHAN" IN THE SOUTH
DEAR ORPHAN: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your parents, and the uncomfortable situation in which you now find yourself. Memorize the first paragraph of your letter to me and recite it verbatim when the subject of your relationship with your aunt and uncle comes up. Because it's a small town, the message will spread quickly, and you won't have to repeat it often.