Should I lend my estranged sister money?

DEAR ABBY: My sister and I were born seven years apart and didn’t have a relationship. This continued into our adult life and actually became worse. She was almost bordering on cruel. Our parents didn’t know. She married an abusive man who isolated her once our parents died. When my father passed away, they went in and took his belongings. Things like this were the norm for them. We barely spoke for 30 years unless I initiated a short, uncomfortable conversation. 

Three years ago, my sister’s husband died suddenly, leaving her in a house that is infested with vermin and could be condemned. She and I now talk regularly, and I help her with some expenses. More costly things like major plumbing and roofing now need to be done. 

My sister wants to borrow money and pay it back in the future. I am not comfortable with that, and I’m struggling based on our past. I have a good life and am feeling very guilty. What should I do? — OBLIGATED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR OBLIGATED: What you should do is listen to your gut — it is guiding you in the right direction. That your sister went in and stole your father’s property with no regard to what you should have received tells you all you need to know about her morals. Do not feel guilty for the good life you have created for yourself. You deserve it. Give your sister no more than you can afford to lose and you won’t be disappointed. 

DEAR ABBY: My husband of two years was estranged from his children after a nasty divorce. He reconnected with his son “Mack” four years ago and has made every effort to show him he’s a good man and is truly sorry for not being there for a time. 

The only time my husband gets to spend time with Mack is when he’s asked to do a project at Mack’s house. He is not invited to any social events. We’ve asked to take Mack’s family to dinner, and he won’t give a straight answer. My husband is so hurt. He wants to get to know Mack and his grandchildren, yet he is kept at a distance. 

We are at our wits’ end trying to figure out why Mack won’t let his father into his life. I have never even met him. My husband has expressed his feelings, asked Mack what’s holding him back and promised he’d never hurt him or his family. We don’t know what to do next. Please help. — NO PROGRESS IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR NO PROGRESS: And … where is Mack’s mother? How long did she keep the children away from their father? To what lengths did she go to alienate them? 

Mack may not want to meet you because he thinks you destroyed his parents’ marriage and took his dad away. He may be unwilling to get closer because he doesn’t trust his father or because he’s afraid it will hurt his mother. Or, Mack could simply be using his father for the labor he provides on those projects he’s invited to work on. 

What to do next would be for your husband (and you) to take a long, hard look at what is and isn’t going on with Mack, and move on with your lives if necessary.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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