DEAR AMY: Many years ago, I started a musical group with two members of my extended family. We were good! One day out of the blue, “Keith” said, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and quit. This broke my heart. A short while later, I found out that he had joined another band and had taken our one remaining band member with him. This new group recorded a number of albums, toured part of the world and had critical success. Approximately 20 years later, I get a letter from Keith, saying he wanted forgiveness for hurting me. I wrote back that it was not a big deal. In retrospect, that was the kind of response that I felt I should give, but it was certainly not how I felt. I was not honest with him or with myself. In the years since, I only feel more anger about this. I was tossed aside. They could have done any number of things to ease the separation (cover a song, invite me to be a guest on an album, etc.), but they didn’t. What should I do? Should I speak my feelings after all this time? Another question that I have asked myself: What should I do with my collection of instruments? Their value has greatly appreciated over the years. I want to be generous, but I do not know if I am that noble — or forgiving — after all that has happened.
The Old Guy
DEAR OLD GUY: “It’s no big deal” is very different from, “I accept your apology and forgive you.”
When “Keith” wrote to you after 20 years asking for forgiveness, he was basically telling you that this episode was a big deal in his life and that he carried 20 years’ worth of regret about it. “It’s no big deal” is really you denying your own feelings — and his. “It’s no big deal” is really a put-down — to both of you.
This long-ago rejection should not have prevented you from playing music with other people — then or now.
Perhaps you’re still angry about this because you’re mad at yourself for letting this stop you musically. But you literally have nothing to lose — and much to gain — if you communicated with Keith now. Ideally you would say honestly that this did hurt you and that you’ve been ruminating about it for years. I hope you would also gain some perspective and choose to see this as a youthful mistake — we all make them.
Pick up those instruments. Start a geezer band in your garage.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for 10 years. About two years ago I had an emotional affair with a co-worker. It was never physical. The affair ended when I realized I wanted to stay with my family. My husband and I have three kids and I didn’t want them to have divorced parents the way I did. I still feel as if I am not “in love” with my husband. Sometimes I just feel so conflicted because I want an intact family unit, but I just don’t have this fire or passion for my husband, regardless of what I do to try and help the marriage out. The thing is I am so scared to jump either way because he’s a great man and father. I don’t want to do to my kids what my parents did to me. Our home is actually happy and peaceful. I just feel as if we are only “friends.” What can I do?
DEAR WORRIED: I respect the groundbreaking research of John Gottman, who has studied married couples for decades. In his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” (2015, Harmony), he and co-author Nan Silver outline practices that successfully married people undertake to keep their marriages strong. Your fondness and respect for your husband gets you part-way there.
Understand that many parents of three young children stop communicating meaningfully. You don’t mention your husband’s fire or passion, relative to yours, but you two can recover through a deliberate practice of connection. Read Gottman’s book together as the first step of deepening your intimacy.
DEAR AMY: I can’t believe you actually suggested that an unimmunized baby should be in the presence of an unimmunized toddler at a holiday gathering. This is frankly dangerous.
DEAR APPALLED: Many readers felt that I (and the pediatrician I quoted in my answer) downplayed the risk to the unimmunized baby. My answer was (I thought) a forceful and logical argument for immunization.