DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that the big brother of one of my childhood friends passed away. I remember seeing him last year when I was visiting home. On one hand, he looked the same, wearing the bright smile that was his signature. On the other, he looked weak. I didn’t think much of it, as I hadn’t seen him in more than 25 years.
I feel bad now that I didn’t reach out to his sister to check to see how things were going. She and I see each other only occasionally. As close as we were as kids, time has created distance between us. We still like each other, though. She was the one who told me about his passing. What can I do to express my sorrow appropriately? -- Now He's Gone, Baltimore
DEAR NOW HE’S GONE: Stay in the moment. No need to dredge up the years that have passed or what you observed about her brother’s fragility when you do talk to your friend. Instead, focus on the positive memories. Tell stories that reflect what you recall about him and his relationship with his sister. Ask her if you can do anything to support her during this time.
Make this a moment of reconnection. I’m sure she can use a friend right now. Death can have a positive impact in people’s lives as it often brings friends back together.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a man in my 70s. I have seven grandchildren who all live close by, so I get to see them frequently. The summer is coming up, and my children rented a lake house that we will all visit.
One thing has been bothering me recently: I never learned to swim when I was younger, and haven't bothered to get lessons since, because I’m never in the position where I need to swim. That is, up until now. I want to be able to go in the lake this summer with my grandchildren. Is it too late to learn how to swim? I feel embarrassed about it. -- Grandpa Can't Swim, Boston
DEAR GRANDPA CAN’T SWIM: It’s not too late to get a swim teacher and solidify the basics for the summer so that you feel comfortable and confident in the water. Go for that. It is smart for you and your family.
Beyond that, know that you can cheer on your grandchildren with all the enthusiasm in the world by standing on the edge of the pool or on the shore and taking great photos and videos.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)