Fashion and Style

Should I Tell a Young Relative That Her Grandmother Tried to Swindle Me?


Many years ago, my sister-in-law, who is now deceased, tried to steal our home. My husband and her husband were brothers and jointly owned a two-family house. My brother-in-law, also now deceased, promised to leave his half of the house to us in his will. But shortly after he underwent brain surgery, when he was confused, his wife had him sign a new will in her favor. Their children were complicit. My husband and I sued and won. My concern: My sister-in-law had a granddaughter who was very young at the time. Because of her grandmother’s greed, the child lost all contact with our side of the family without any explanation. She is now 19. Should I contact her to explain what happened? It may help her with closure, though she may not remember us.


I am all for mending fences, but I don’t think that’s the likely outcome here. Reporting the bad deeds of a dead (and possibly beloved) grandmother to a young woman who may not remember you seems unnecessary. If she were curious about your family, she probably would have heard some version of this story already.

No, I have a different idea: Imagine that your sister-in-law was so afraid of losing the home (and her security) that she behaved badly. You don’t say why her husband was leaving the house to you. Now envision her “complicit” children as simply loving and trusting their mother. I know this is a lot to ask of you, but people’s motives are often more complex than merely good or evil.

Also, your sister-in-law is dead, and you got the house. I may be wrong, but I suspect you need “closure” more than her granddaughter does. Why not reach out to your nieces and nephews and invite them over? If they accept, no need to reopen old wounds. Just have a nice visit. You may feel surprisingly unburdened by putting this conflict behind you.

My sister and I, about 30, grew up in a small town. I stayed; she left. During high school, she dated a guy for a few weeks, but it didn’t work out. No big deal. I see him around town. Last week, he invited me for drinks. I called my sister to tell her, and, surprisingly, she objected. I find this idiotic. Should I go out with him anyway?


I wouldn’t — yet. Call your sister back and ask why she objects to your seeing this man. Don’t settle for “It would be awkward,” either. Encourage her to be more specific.

There may be a “big deal” here that you don’t know about. If there isn’t, or if your sister doesn’t persuade you with a reasonable argument, I wish you the best of luck in dating her ex (with whom she may have had sex).

It is common now and seems to be acceptable to discuss other people’s money: “He inherited a fortune from his father.” “I heard she’s earning six figures.” “They paid less than $500,000 for that house.” I don’t want to participate in these conversations even if they are acceptable. How can I politely communicate this fact?


You would have loved my parents, Joe. They never talked about money. I talk about little else. (Sort of kidding!) Money, whether inherited or earned — or earned because of how we’re set up by our families — often determines the range of choices we have in our lives. I think it’s healthy to acknowledge economic differences.

But talking about money can be a kind of gossip, too. So I respect your desire to opt out. Say: “Let’s change the subject. Her money is none of our business.” You may be considered a killjoy, but you are making a fair point. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself; this may take a few tries.

We are newcomers to the downtown neighborhood of our small town. Our next-door neighbor is a self-styled dog rescuer: She keeps up to 15 dogs in her home on an acre lot. Many are strays that she places eventually with others. She lets them out several times a day, and they poop and bark up a storm. The smell and clouds of flies and mosquitoes are a nuisance, but nobody wants to be the bad guy and confront her. (She is a lovely person.) One neighbor told us to accept the status quo because her family is so prominent in town and her work is valuable. Can we broach this issue?


I am no zoning officer, but 15 dogs in one house in a residential neighborhood (even if many are fostered only temporarily) is outrageous! Your charitable neighbor is treating you uncharitably. I get that nobody wants to be a meanie — so go next door and be nice.

Praise her good works, and then tell her that the stench and noise are intolerable. Ask that she clear her property of dog poop daily (or hire someone to do it). Then provide specific windows when you don’t want to hear 15 dogs barking in her yard. If she refuses, head to the zoning office. Family prominence is not omnipotence.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.


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