Aunt seeks the right ap­proach to niece in need of guid­ance

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - CLASSIFIED MARKERPLACE - ABI­GAIL VAN BUREN Dear Abby is writ­ten by Abi­gail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Con­tact Dear Abby at P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069 or visit

Dear Abby: I am con­cerned about my niece. She’s 18 and a se­nior in high school. Her fa­ther — my younger brother — is in­car­cer­ated and has been for 13 years.

Our fam­i­lies have been alien­ated, but I’m try­ing to reach out to my niece. Although she has been hes­i­tant to get close, we’ve had a cou­ple of face-to-face vis­its dur­ing the past year. She is needy for fam­ily, and I know her mother has been over­whelmed hav­ing had to raise her on her own.

Long story short, my niece has been dat­ing — for the sec­ond time — a man her fa­ther’s age. It makes me cringe, yet I feel this isn’t my busi­ness or within my power to change. You can tell me this is none of my busi­ness and I should just walk away, but my niece is vul­ner­a­ble and I’m wor­ried about her. — Wor­ried Aunt

In Texas Dear Wor­ried Aunt: Your niece may be vul­ner­a­ble in your opin­ion, but she is also 18. She may have fa­ther is­sues that need to be ironed out, but con­sid­er­ing the man has been ab­sent since she was 5, that’s not sur­pris­ing.

I agree that this isn’t within your power to change. My ad­vice is to be there for her when she will al­low it, be as sup­port­ive as you can, re­sist the urge to fill a parental role and do a lot of lis­ten­ing.

Dear Abby: I am 64. When I was an inse­cure 15-year-old, I liked show­ing off for my two best friends. We of­ten made fun of other kids be­hind their backs. With them, my smart mouth got me the at­ten­tion I craved.

One day I slipped up and whis­pered some­thing too loudly. The girl heard what I said about her, and the stricken look on her face told me how much it hurt.

I looked for her at our 20th re­union want­ing to apol­o­gize, but she was ab­sent. I wish I could take back what I said, but I can’t. I have spent the last 49 years try­ing to be kind to oth­ers to make up for it.

If there are peo­ple who read your col­umn who re­mem­ber a sting­ing re­mark that was aimed at them, please let them know that some of us re­gret it very much. I hope they find for­give­ness so they can be free of bit­ter­ness and hurt. I am truly sorry. — Miss Smart Mouth in Ok­la­homa

Dear Miss Smart Mouth: I’m glad you wrote be­cause I’m sure more than one reader has been the tar­get of un­kind re­marks at one time or an­other, and even may have made a few them­selves. An apol­ogy to your class­mate was def­i­nitely in or­der, even if 20 years late. Too bad the woman wasn’t around to hear it.

I’ll share some­thing with you a trial lawyer once told me. He said, “You can’t un­ring the bell.” What he meant by it was that a judge can in­struct a jury to “dis­re­gard that state­ment,” but once some­thing is out there, it’s very hard to erase from mem­ory. The con­text may be dif­fer­ent, but it ap­plies to re­la­tion­ships, too.

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