Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend Wants to Help During Difficult Time

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine has just had surgery. His wife contacted a group of us to let us know it was happening and that she would keep us updated as to his condition. She promised to email us after he got out of surgery, but she didn’t. I have been crazy with worry. Finally I wrote to the group, excluding her, to find out if anybody had heard anything. I didn’t want to worry her in case anything bad had happened to her husband.

She got back to me eventually, and I let the group know that he is OK. But then she wasn’t happy that I had talked to them independent of her. I feel like I can’t do anything right. All I wanted to do was help support my friend in this difficult time. She is so stressed out that she isn’t keep us updated so well, even though she said she would, and she asked us not to communicate with him. This is going to be a long road back to recovery. How can I be helpful without being overbearing? -- Friend in Deed, San Jose, California

DEAR FRIEND IN DEED: Talk to your friend's wife and ask for her advice. Tell her you want to be helpful, just like everybody she originally contacted. Explain that you need a bit more guidance in order to help rather than annoy her. Offer to be the conduit to communicate with the others when she has information to share. Remind her that her group of friends is ready to do anything she needs. Ask for her blessing for you to continue to check in with her regularly so you can help with whatever task is before her.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors

Father Drags Feet to File Taxes

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is going to college next year, and we are going to need financial aid to pay for tuition. We have known this for years, but my husband is dragging his feet. He hasn’t filed his income taxes for years. I’ve tried to get him to file with me, but he shrugs it off. It’s odd because he has a job and gets a W-2 form, but he is slow and stubborn. The paperwork can’t be completed without him, but I don’t think we are going to get it. Is there any way around him? I don’t want to deprive our son of this chance at a better life. -- Despite Dad, Milwaukee

DEAR DESPITE DAD: If your husband is unwilling to file his taxes, your son will not be able to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms to be considered for federal aid. The rules are strict. Your son may be able to apply for academic scholarships that are not based on need. The alternative is to wait until your son turns 24. Then he will be considered legally independent, and he can apply for financial aid on his own. For more information, see

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Money