DEAR ABBY: Several years ago my husband's sister asked us if we wanted an old schoolhouse bell she had purchased. She was moving and could not take it with her. Because we like antiques, we accepted her offer.
After much effort and paying to rent a moving truck -- the bell weighed 1,500 pounds -- my husband moved it to our house. It was so heavy he got it no farther than the top of our driveway, and there it sat for more than two years! It became obvious that the bell was just too large and heavy for us to do anything with. It would have cost us a small fortune to have someone build a stand for it, so I asked a local auctioneer if he could sell the bell for us.
When my sister-in-law learned I had sold the bell, she had a fit! She thought I should have asked her permission to sell the bell, as she had considered the bell only on "loan" to us. I never considered a 1,500-pound item that we paid to move, sitting in my driveway for more than two years, a "loan." I'm angry that this has caused such a rift in my husband's family.
I was always taught that when you are given something, it is yours to do with as you please. My husband feels caught in the middle, and we are now having marital problems for the first time in our 14-year marriage. What do you suggest? -- MELVA IN PHILLIPSBURG, N.J.
DEAR MELVA: I, too, have always thought that once a gift is given it belongs to the recipient to keep or dispose of as he or she wishes. However, the bell is gone and there is nothing any of you can do at this point to retrieve it. Perhaps offering to split the money you received for the bell will soothe your sister-in-law's wounded spirit. In any case, you and your husband should not let his sister's attitude sabotage your marriage.