Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: A friend whom I have been close to since grade school has just moved back to our home area. We were both excited to be in the same region again and for our families to get to know each other. After a few of my invitations and suggestions to meet up were declined, he came forward with the news that his wife is uncomfortable with me. His wife also went to high school with me but we didn't know each other. We've shared perhaps two brief conversations, all over 15 years ago. I have no idea what could be bothering her. I respect what I know of her and had no idea there were any hard feelings. I am deeply saddened to lose the opportunity to get to know her and my friend's children and am shocked that I now can't be in contact with my longtime friend. Am I supposed to gracefully bow out of this friendship? Even an explanation or some sort of resolution would help lessen what feels like a very unfair blow.
At a Loss
DEAR AT A LOSS: At this point, the best route to your old friend might be through forging a new friendship with his wife. You say you barely know her and that your only brief contact with her was many years ago. You should reach out to her independently. Perhaps you could pull together a gathering (maybe including other high school pals), welcoming her and her husband back to their old stomping grounds -- and make a point of inviting her to reconnect. If you try this and fail, then unfortunately you will have to accept your primary friend's unfortunate choice.
DEAR AMY: I live on a busy street. Either because of the type of street or because of the actual people, our block is a "good fences make good neighbors" kind of neighborhood. The problem is with a neighbor who moved in about two years ago. After spending over a year creating some kind of dirt wall and then planting dead or scrawny, unhealthy, random bushes to complete the wall and then adding three stone wall "treatments," our neighbor hung up his signs advertising his landscaping business. The bushes block views of cars traveling around a busy corner, thus making driving and walking on the street a bit more dangerous, and we are only a few blocks from an elementary school. My next-door neighbor, who is trying to sell her house, says potential buyers take one look out of her front window and head out the back door. I am just glad I have blinds! Any advice?
DEAR BLINDERS: You could investigate local zoning and safety laws to see if your neighbor's business is in compliance. If your neighbor is in compliance, there is likely nothing you can do. He has built his own "fence," and even if it is not a "good" one, you should try to be a good neighbor.
DEAR AMY: Your advice to "Brokenhearted," who received the same gifts and endearments from her widower husband that he gave his first wife, was right on! Many men are not intuitive or creative in these areas and he may have been simply trying to express his love for her using what he knew. He most likely will need some gentle guidance and suggestions from her to establish their own traditions and memories. I am in the same situation as she is. I have been with my 78-year-old widower for almost four years. It hasn't always been easy for either one of us, but it is definitely worth the effort and patience. I feel so lucky to have found this love late in life. I wish Brokenhearted success and happiness and would like her to think about this: A large part of his being is directly related to his former marriage, without which he would not be the same person he is now. I hope she can find comfort, acceptance and even gratitude with the memory of his former wife and will find that the "ghost" is actually a spirit of good will and a promise of happiness to come.
Older and Wiser Too
DEAR WISER: Lovely and uplifting advice.