Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I have recently divorced my husband of 20 years. When we got married, I was truly blessed with a wonderful stepson and stepdaughter. Their father — my husband — was an addict and in recovery for many years (so he says). Our marriage ended because of his dishonesty about drug usage, eventually leading to a DWI when he ran someone off the road and rear-ended another vehicle. This was after countless lost nights of sleep; harm to our home; emotional, verbal and physical abuse — which he never owned up to (or should I say, remembered). Needless to say, the accident was the end of our marriage. I still have an unresolved issue with my stepdaughter. I gave her $10,000 of my own personal money for her wedding. The wedding was canceled the day before it was due to take place because she and her fiance are addicts, and when the money was gone, he left. She is well-supported and can return the money and other gifts (which she has not done). Any advice for me?
DEAR STRAPPED: Your stepdaughter should reimburse you for the money you gave to her to fund her wedding, and she should return any wedding gifts she received.
However, I think it’s pretty obvious that she will not follow through. She’s an addict. She is the daughter of an addict. I’m afraid you know all too well how unreliable people in the throes of addiction are. If she has access to funds to repay you, you might consider taking her to court to try to recover at least some of this money. I hope you can move on and find peace.
DEAR AMY: My wife and I are in our early 50s and have several children. My sister is also in her 50s, has never married and lives with my mother. We always invite my sister to family events — weddings, the kids’ birthdays, graduations, etc. Nearly always she responds by short email that she will not attend. She offers no excuse and only says, “I will not be there.” Recently, I got her on the phone and asked why she was not joining our youngest son’s birthday dinner. She said she was not “comfortable” around some of the other family members we had invited. I emailed her afterward to let her know it hurt us that she was not respecting these family events by attending. She responded, “My attendance or lack of it is not about respect — I have my own life and my own issues. If I decline, I don’t like being quizzed about why I am not coming.” Am I out of line in viewing this as a respect issue and expressing our hurt feelings? I suspect she will now get my mother involved.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: You are not out of line — nor is your sister. You expressed yourself honestly, and she replied in kind. It is almost refreshing that she is not attempting to lay down conditions or dictate your guest list, or make any demands at all. Furthermore, your expectation that she should supply a reason or excuse for not attending an event isn’t polite. Don’t you think it’s possible that your sister, whose life is so very different from yours, might have challenges you don’t comprehend — or aren’t aware of?
You are kind to continue to invite her to things, even though her pattern indicates that she will decline. I hope you and your family are able to not take this personally and to rise above your own feelings to give your sister opportunities to spend time with you in your home.
DEAR AMY: I’m an attorney representing people with disabilities. I’m adding to your advice to “Academically Challenged,” the disabled college freshman who was feeling overwhelmed. She should go to her college’s student services office and inquire about seeking “accommodations” through a 504 plan. If she has an evaluation that formally identifies the nature of her learning disability, then she will likely qualify for accommodations such as extra time on tests, specific layouts of assignments such that they are visually less distracting (depending on her specific disability), or “assistive technologies” that will help her even the playing field. Student services also often offer tutoring at little or low cost. She may need her parents’ help to figure out how to access the services that the college offers.
DEAR ESQUIRE: Many people wrote in with similar recommendations for this overwhelmed student. Thank you.