Dear Amy: "Bobbie," an older neighbor of mine, was not a good person. Over the years she did harmful things to me, which benefited her. Despite all that, I maintained a good relationship with her.
Bobbie befriended "Ted," a divorced senior, and used him for many things — from driving her around and yardwork, to lending her a large sum of money to remodel her house.
She and Ted often went on short vacations together. After returning from one trip, she went into a diatribe behind his back, trashed him and told me that she could not stand him. Yet she continued to go on trips with him.
After Bobbie had surgery, Ted came to her house daily to cook for her. I brought food for both of them, and learned later she had eaten it all herself.
Bobbie passed away about a year ago and Ted took it very hard. He told me that Bobbie was a wonderful person who never said a bad word about anyone. I kept silent.
Many months have passed, and Ted is still grieving.
If Ted ever mentions again how wonderful Bobbie was, should I tactfully let him know that she was not the wonderful person he thought she was? Would telling the truth lessen his pain? Or would shattering his idealized image of her depress him even more?
Amy says: Informing "Ted" that he is a lousy judge of character will not diminish his grief. Instead, this nice man will move forward feeling bad about himself, "Bobbie," and you. What greater good does this serve?
You seem to have way too high a stake in your late neighbor's relationship with her friend. She's gone now, and you are free to remember her in your own way, but don't feel compelled to influence how others remember her.
Pen pal hysteria
Dear Amy: I need to know if I am overreacting or if my daughter is risking her life.
I'm 68 and live in a "mother-in-law" studio on my daughter "Kathy's" property. I see her and my grandkids every day and I love it!
During this pandemic, the kids are schooling at home. My daughter has been looking for new hobbies to keep them busy and engaged.
I recently learned that Kathy and all four of my grandkids have been exchanging letters with people. This means that random strangers have my grandkids' names and address!
I asked Kathy what the bloody hell she was doing, and she said she communicated with these people before exchanging addresses and that she checked their identities. She knows them through Facebook (I don't do anything online).
She says lots of people are doing this and that she and the kids have made some nice friends.
I am shocked that she would be so stupid! She has no idea who these people are!
My son-in-law is no help; he told me it's a fun thing for them to do. I am begging you to tell them to stop!
Amy says: I agree with being cautious about beginning a correspondence with a pen pal, certainly when there are children involved.
Your daughter has been cautious, doing her best to confirm the identities of the people her children are corresponding with. Both parents are involved and engaged.
I do NOT share your hysteria. Pen pals have existed for as long as people have been able to send and receive letters. Many wonderful lifelong friendships have started with pen pal correspondences between strangers.
Yes, there is always a risk of revealing your identity and address to strangers, but individuals manage this risk every day in their online worlds.
You would be wise to develop a friendly and nonjudgmental interest in this. That way, the children would be inspired to share their correspondence with you, enabling you to make sure it is not placing them at risk.
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