Dear Annie: More than 30 years ago, my brother “Zach” was married for several years to “Ruth,” who had an affair with an older man and left Zach to marry him. She became pregnant during their last year of marriage but told told Zach she’d had a miscarriage. After a bitter divorce, there was no communication between them, and the rest of us followed suit.
Zach died in an accident 23 years ago, leaving a young widow and a 6-month-old son. I recently ran into an old acquaintance who lives in the same city as Ruth and is now widowed. He told me he’d met Ruth’s son and said the young man looked exactly like Zach. He’s convinced this is my brother’s child whom Ruth claimed to have miscarried.
To complicate matters, Ruth’s mother attends my church. We are cordial but not close. I just heard she is moving to an assisted-living facility in the city where Ruth now resides.
There are a lot of people who would be affected by finding out that Zach had another son, not least my mother. Mom was devastated when Zach died so many years ago, and we don’t think she could handle this type of news, but should we get the facts from Ruth’s mother before she leaves town?
— Troubled but Want To Do the Right Thing
Dear Troubled: The person most affected would be Zach’s son by his second wife. He could have a half-brother. You might want to investigate more, but be cautious. Ruth’s mother might not know any more than you do, and it would be cruel to harass her. And Ruth could deny it, even if it is true. Leave whatever information you have with your nephew.
Dear Annie: I recently held an 80th birthday party for my father, which naturally included a great many seniors over age 75. My sister and her two daughters, both in their 20s, sat down as soon as they arrived and stayed in their seats after the older guests arrived. Our townhouse has limited seating, and though I provided 35 folding chairs, some still had no place to sit. Was it my responsibility to tell my sister and her children to give up their seats? Our mother did not raise us to be so inconsiderate.
— Embarrassed Hostess
Dear Hostess: Yes, it would have been OK to discreetly and politely ask your nieces whether they would mind giving up their seats for Dad’s friends. If they had objected, there wasn’t much more you could do. But when planning an event that includes a great many seniors, please try to have enough chairs on hand to seat everyone.