Condo community feels effects of stress during pandemic

Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I own a condo in a building with 22 units. Because of COVID, one of the HOA board members has posted signs stating "rules" throughout the building. The rules are typical for these trying times, but the number of signs is obsessive. Many of the residents dislike the signs, but my husband was the one who wrote a nasty letter to the HOA about how many are posted.

The board member who was responsible for posting the signs was a friend of mine. Her feelings were hurt, and she has made some snide remarks about the letter. A group of women meet weekly for happy hour, and she and I are both part of that group. I feel caught in the middle. My husband has had a hard time getting over being mad about the signs, and I know the HOA member is angry at him. I just want to go to happy hour and drink and gossip. Why can't we all just get along? -- IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: We are living in trying times, and many people -- your husband included -- aren't their better selves right now. The HOA board was fulfilling its obligation to the community by posting health and safety signs. They are meant to educate not only homeowners but also visitors to the building, but too often they tend to become like "wallpaper" and are ignored. You are not caught in the middle. Your husband owes that woman an apology for getting snarky. But it probably won't happen unless you insist upon it. (If it doesn't, you can always do it "for" him the next time you all meet for happy hour.)

DEAR ABBY: I met a wonderful man who was 14 years older who treated me like I have never been treated before. He opened doors for me, took me on actual dates, paid for things, met all my friends and family, and took me on my first vacation at 39 years old. He was very cuddly and such a gentleman. He even introduced himself as my "boyfriend" to some of my friends.

Seven months ago, we had our first argument and he asked me how I felt about him. I said I loved him and he returned with, "I like you a lot." He said he didn't feel as strongly as I did and doesn't want a relationship.

When we broke up shortly after, he said he wanted to be friends. But he still called and invited me over for sex regularly for the next six weeks. I was very hurt, but I finally cut ties because emotionally I couldn't handle it. He still wants to be friends but I cannot. He still will do anything for me and wants the benefits of being together without the labels.

It has been more than two months and I'm heartbroken. If I call him, he answers and talks like we are the best of friends, and it kills me. How do I get over him? Is it worth trying to see if we will work out? -- BROKEN IN UTAH

DEAR BROKEN: This "gentleman" made clear that his feelings for you are not as strong as those you have for him. You are involved with someone who is honest about wanting nothing more than the status quo. If you're willing to settle for being only FWB -- which, I suspect, you have too much intelligence and self-esteem to do -- go along with what he's offering (which is very little). But if you do, know full well that it won't "work out."

DEAR ABBY: We are approaching the time of year when many people struggle with how to divide time between families during the holidays. This is often made harder when there has been divorce and remarriage within a family, especially when children are involved. This was the case in our family.

Planning dinners and celebrations became far easier once I realized that holidays are not just arbitrary dates on a calendar, but a spirit of heart and mind. I let everyone else plan their events, and then choose a day that as many people as possible are available. I host an event on that day -- a week earlier, a week (or month) later -- it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we gather in love and friendship and have a wonderful time.

As a result, even my former daughters-in-law readily join in with their new spouses and children and we have a ball! We get to blend together four generations, and our youngest generation is richer for the experience. We joke about having "in-law" and "out-law" tables.

I'll be honest, it took work. The adults had to agree to act like adults, but I'm proud that everyone looks forward to coming to our holiday celebrations whenever they are held. My advice to your readers: Forget the calendar and remember the reason for the gathering! -- FOUND HOLIDAY SPIRIT

DEAR FOUND: I love your attitude, and couldn't stop smiling after reading your letter. Thank you so much for writing. I hope it will open the minds and hearts of other readers.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 61-year-old man. When I was 40, I was told by my sister that Dad had confided that our mom -- who had recently passed -- had been married before. We were both floored that it was a secret all those years and that, with a family of 12 aunts and uncles and countless cousins, no one ever spilled the beans.

About a year ago, I asked an older cousin on Facebook why no one had ever mentioned it. He said his mom told him not to, AND that my oldest sister, also deceased, wasn't my dad's daughter. Dad is gone now, and I only have my cousin's word to go by.

Almost all of the relatives are dead, and the only living uncle was younger than my mom. He's in his 80s now and doesn't remember anything like that. I can't help but wonder what other parts of my life were a "lie." I have suffered from depression for years and this certainly doesn't help. Any thoughts? -- JUMBLED IN TEXAS

DEAR JUMBLED: I'm glad you asked because I do have some to offer. None of the parts of your life have been a "lie." Certain parts of your parents' lives were obfuscated, most likely because they weren't proud of them. In your parents' generation, divorce was less common than it has been in more recent decades. But they are dead and gone now. It is time to forgive them for their lapses and concentrate on your own life. A step in the right direction would be to schedule some time with a licensed psychotherapist to talk about your depression.

DEAR ABBY: I've been dating "Karl" for five years. We live separately. I thought our relationship was pretty solid until a recent health scare. A few days ago, I had a severe allergic reaction to something I ate at dinner. When I realized how serious it was, I immediately rushed to the ER. (I had taken an antihistamine instead of calling the paramedics.)

I quickly messaged Karl that I was having a medical emergency. The doctor said these reactions can be fatal and will become increasingly worse after each reaction. Karl was working and said he couldn't leave work. He didn't make sure I got home safely or even come to the house later to check on me. When I asked him for help picking up the many meds I needed the next morning, he again said he was working. I was furious, and did it myself although I shouldn't have been driving. I know I'm emotional due to meds and trauma. Am I overreacting? -- DISAPPOINTED IN OREGON

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: You are NOT overreacting. You were fortunate to have made it to the emergency room because you could have died on the way. Karl's reaction to your crisis was incredibly callous. Please think very carefully about a future with this person because he isn't going to change. Start compiling a list of people you can depend upon should the need arise. Karl definitely isn't one. If you were counting on him to be your life partner, change your mind now because, if you don't, it could cost you your life.

DEAR ABBY: When I was a kid, I was called a "chatterbox," and it continued until my mid-30s. Somewhere I came across the saying that it's better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. It made sense to me, so I shut up.

Now I'm close to retirement, and people complain that I don't talk enough! I detest social gatherings where I must make polite conversation with people I don't know. And with people I do know, I'm afraid of saying too much. Any recommendations? -- FORMER CHATTERBOX IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR FORMER CHATTERBOX: Conversation isn't supposed to be a monologue; it is supposed to be a dialogue -- an exchange of information. If you find yourself dominating a conversation, pause, ask questions and listen to the answers. For those who say you don't hold up your end, consider making a list in advance of topics you consider safe (excluding sex, politics and religion) and refer to it if you feel stuck. And, if you don't know how to begin, lead off with a compliment.

DEAR ABBY: I am engaged to a wonderful man I'll call Jesse who loves my daughter and me. However, one of my brothers seems not to be happy for me. Because of this, Jesse doesn't want to invite him to our wedding, but I'm worried about how excluding him will affect my family. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. -- MELANCHOLY IN MONTANA

DEAR MELANCHOLY: You and Jesse need to discuss this further. I don't know what your brother's reservations are concerning your fiance, but unless his presence would be disruptive, he should not be excluded. If you do what Jesse has in mind, it will cause a rift that could last for decades. Invite your brother, and it will then be up to him whether he attends.