Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My sister (in her early 40s) was diagnosed with cancer. They caught it early, so it's still at an early stage. We in the family all found out a few weeks ago. I have messaged her and her husband a few times since then to chitchat, but never asked them about the cancer. I feel like if they want to talk about it or need my help, I will be there. It is understood by everyone in my family that we will help one another if asked. My sister and I haven't spoken for a week, and I found out from my other sister that my brother-in-law called me rude and not supportive because I didn't offer to help. I have two young children, and the younger one was constantly sick. I also work full time and am dealing with a dying father-in-law. I don't have the memory capacity or time to follow up on them all the time. Was I being rude?

Hurt

DEAR HURT: You were being rude, and you ARE being rude.

Even if yours is a family that considers illness to be a private matter -- your sister has cancer. It is incomprehensible that you would learn of this, initiate contact with your sister to "chitchat," and then never mention it.

Your sister and her husband also did not bring it up, but they knew you had an awareness of their situation and were no doubt expecting you to at least inquire.

You say you can't be supportive because your sister's cancer is trumped by other family issues. This is even more baffling, because if you have experience dealing with illness, surely you realize that the comfort doesn't come from offers of "help," but from having people at least acknowledge the challenging situation illness presents.

In the course of your messaging, what does it cost you to type: "Oh, Sis, I heard about your cancer. Thank goodness it was caught early. I'm thinking of you..."? All of your reasons for not doing this come off as justifications after the fact. You should apologize and offer some sisterly support.

DEAR AMY: My husband just learned that our 29-year-old niece has been stealing money from his mother's (her grandmother's) checking account by transferring funds to pay her bills. His mother suffers from dementia and his sister (mother of our niece) pays the bills for their mom. When his sister became aware of her daughter's stealing, she tried to stop it but was too embarrassed to tell my husband. My husband is considering taking legal action against our niece. I support my husband's decision because she doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of hacking into her grandmother's bank account on multiple occasions. Are there other options to consider?

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Catch a Thief

DEAR CATCH: I'm with your husband. His niece is 29 years old. She may not have known what the consequences of this would be, but now she should find out. This is an extremely serious matter. Not only was she stealing, but she was also committing fraud (and/or forgery) to steal from this account.

The siblings should have a meeting, go over the books together and make sure they know exactly where things stand. Your husband's sister should no longer handle the checkbook.

In my view, legal action is justified; if this is the niece's first offense, she may be able to avoid a criminal record by negotiating a settlement with the family. She obviously needs financial (and probably other) counseling.

The siblings may mutually decide on another course of action and consequence -- but at the very least, the amount stolen should be deducted from the sister's portion of the estate.

DEAR AMY: A husband calling himself "Stuck" described his wife's anger, rages and constant negativity -- and the impact on him and their sons. This woman might have a thyroid disorder or be feeling the effects of menopause. She should see her doctor.

Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: Many readers responded with theories about underlying conditions as possible causes of this woman's abusive behavior. I was most concerned about her husband and children, who were bearing the brunt of her criticism and rages.