Dear Abby: I was divorced 14 years ago. Afterward, my ex, “Tom,” hid from me because he was afraid I’d have him arrested for not paying child support.
Our son is a Marine, and the Red Cross notified him that his father was dying in a hospital on the East Coast. My ex’s aunt had contacted them to notify my son as next of kin. Tom had remarried, divorced again and had a girlfriend. He died a few days later.
Nobody is willing to pay for his cremation. I asked his sister and aunt if we could split the bill three ways, even though I realize I’m not obligated. They refused, even after being told the remains would be deemed “unclaimed.” The county would dispose of him as an indigent drifter. Their excuse was they hadn’t heard from him in several years. I told them they were preaching to the choir, since I was the one he hid from.
I do not resent my ex because I realize his death was as unpredictable as his life. But I do feel bitterly taken advantage of. When I accused his relatives of false concern, they got angry at me. How can I demonstrate honor to my son by dishonoring his father that way?
On the Spot
Dear On the Spot: You are not the next of kin; your son is. Ask him what he thinks would be the appropriate way to handle his deadbeat dad’s remains. You made the effort to have the family pay for the burial, and that should show your son that you tried to honor his father.
I don’t know how long it has been since your ex passed, but this is a case where the body could have been donated to a medical school. There is nothing dishonorable about that.
Dear Abby: A friend who lives out of town asked me if she can stay with me for a few days. We often host each other. However, she also mentioned that she has a bedbug infestation.
I could take precautions, but some friends have said it was nervy of her to even ask because it put me in an awkward position. I honestly would prefer she not come, but I feel guilty. Any advice?
In New York
Dear Possible Host: Yes. Tell your friend you would love to see her, but in light of her revelation, you think it would be better if she stays in a hotel during this visit. And unless you are absolutely sure that her home and clothing are insect-free, entertain her away from your dwelling. Bedbugs can cling to EVERYTHING — suitcases, clothing, you name it. Hostess, protect thyself.
Dear Abby: My husband died three years ago and I’m still grieving deeply. Time hasn’t made it easier; in fact, it’s getting more difficult. No one around me understands or even cares, for that matter.
How do I find a good therapist? I don’t know what questions to ask to see if I can trust him or her with my thoughts, and if we would get along. Any suggestions?
Dying of a Broken Heart
Dear Dying: A way to find a good therapist would be to ask friends and/or your doctor for referrals and explain that since your husband’s death your grief hasn’t lessened. Your state psychological association can also provide the names of members who specialize in grief counseling.
Interview several prospective therapists. A question you should ask is how many patients with your problem he or she has successfully treated. However, the bottom line is whether you feel the therapist listens well and has the compassion to help you, which is as important as any diploma hanging on the wall. You’ll know when you meet someone you are comfortable with.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.