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Published Oct. 24, 2008

Q: My half-sister was raised by her mother and I by mine; our father died when we were kids. We have an aunt on our dad's side, but no other relatives. This aunt is now elderly and ailing, but because of bad blood in the family (apparently this aunt was very hateful to her mother), my half-sister has cut her off completely for the past 14 years.

The burden of caring for our aunt falls completely on me now, and my half-sister refuses to help, either financially or by just visiting sometimes. I am very resentful of having to carry this load by myself. My half-sister has a big family on her mother's side, with lots of support. I am basically by myself. How do I come to terms with having a sister who does not want to engage with my side of the family, and who lives as if our father and his side of the family simply did not exist? What can I do to engage her?

The City of Dysfunction

A: I can sympathize with the strain you're feeling, and I can see why it's so tempting to look at your half-sister's extended family as the salvation you're being denied.

However, look at it from her perspective. You are asking her to provide aid and comfort to her tormentor. (Gandhi- or MLK-like forbearance is something we ask of ourselves, not of others.) In fact, she could be as resentful of your willingness to hold the hand of someone who terrorized her family as you are of her unwillingness to pitch in.

If you would like to make one more appeal for her help, then I would be sure to acknowledge your half-sister's pain, and make it clear you would regard it as a show of support for you, and not necessarily for your aunt. Any appeal would have to, have tobe accompanied by an assurance that you will understand if the answer is no. Asking, good; guilt-tripping, bad.

For the sake of your own peace of mind, I would also advise not looking over your shoulder to gaze at all the help you aren't getting. Instead, concentrate on owning your own decision to the best of your ability. Even without the bad blood, your half-sister would have no obligation to help. If you aren't up to providing the care you feel your aunt needs, then please tap local elder care resources for help (there's a locator at

I don't know boo about your half-sister, but I know this - you and she both have made difficult choices. If you made the choice necessary for your own peace of mind, then please consider that your half-sister did the same.

Looking for reasons to stay or go misses point of relationship

Q: Okay, please settle something between my friends and me.

Is it really the end of the world when a guy doesn't call when he says he's going to call?

When it happens, I'm not sure what to do, but my friends say to lose him. There's got to be some middle ground, especially since I've been guilty of that same crime.


A: Don't look for reasons to drop someone, and don't look for reasons to stay with someone. What's left is two people's actual interest in each other. That's the middle ground.