On difficult occasions, your brothers may not have the words for you

Dear Amy: I have a brother who has cancer, and I am convinced that he wants me to leave him.

We are on good terms with one another, but I often go to bed disappointed when I can’t get the conversation to a point where he will let me go, no matter how many times I ask, or how distressing he feels I am being difficult.

Several years ago, when he was told he had “only” about two years to live, I said to myself, “Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. Maybe he really does understand.” But then, this past February, he is not responding to anything I’ve said, and he is trying to keep his face locked into a frown that seems to be saying nothing.

This has been happening for years. This is becoming more frequent, to the point where I am worried it will mean my brothers will never meet.

There have been a couple of important family milestones since then, in which I wanted to be able to talk to him about them. I want my nephew to see how his little brother deals with this (I have a nephew of my own). But now his face has no expression, no response to anything I say.

I just have a feeling that things are not going to get better soon. Is it healthy for me to tell him that if he wants me out of his life, I will leave it, too?

— Distressed

Dear Distressed: I cannot fully understand your brother’s facial expressions. A simple smile could help to de-stigmatize these difficult moments.

I’m not sure how such a conversation would go. But you don’t sound like you want to antagonize this guy.

The sad fact is that, because of his disease, his best interactions with people are conducted via text and the phone. It is heartbreaking to see him unable to respond to human interaction.

This strikes me as so remarkably un-human. It also strikes me as sad, for you to have to deal with this. But you should take an opportunity in your daily life to talk with him. And if he doesn’t want to have a conversation, I think you should try to resolve it through another means — perhaps a gathering at the house, or even visiting him in the hospital. If he is spending time in the hospital, I don’t believe that his wife should be cut out of any conversations with him.

Dear Amy: My father has always loved a woman, as we all do. But now, he is spending more time with another woman.

After the wedding of this woman’s son from a previous marriage, a rift has been opened between them. Dad will not be able to get over the bride’s father, who believes his own son is unattractive. Dad is trying to start another relationship with this woman and do whatever he can to put his ex-wife out of his life. I refuse to get involved in his web of deceit, and am not interested in being told what to do.

To complicate things, I am in a relationship with a man who still sees his father, but believes he is unattractive.

I am so tired of constantly having to choose between families, particularly marriages that one or both are going through hard times. What do you think I should do?

— Bitter About One Family

Dear Bitter: Your father, in all likelihood, is seeking happiness through other people’s misery. You are wise to not get involved with this.

You should remain a middleman, and make an effort to stay out of this. This family dynamic just isn’t your business.

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