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ASK AMY

Country living was great, until brother arrived

Q. Our five family members share ownership of a remote rural summer home. By agreement, each member can stay there up to two weeks a year.

Eighteen months ago, our brother became unemployed, unhoused, and has been staying in this house year-round, reluctantly leaving (late) when the other partners go for their annual vacation time.

Our brother has three dogs that are not house trained. When we go down “to open the cabin for the season” we end up throwing away rugs, pillows, deodorizing furniture, and cleaning up our brother and his dogs’ messes. Our brother also has hoarding tendencies.

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He has not offered to do maintenance projects in lieu of rent, and the house and grounds have fallen into disrepair. He does not reply to our e-mails or phone calls and when we try to deal with him in person, he becomes very defensive and brings up childhood slights rather than discuss the current situation.

Our stepmother gave up her share of the partnership in order not to have to deal with our brother. No one wants to have a family meeting to sort this out. It is so stressful that we can’t have a conversation.

We are almost at the point of wanting to sell the summer cabin, so we don’t have to take on our brother’s messes and behavior. But it would be a shame to lose our summer vacation cabin that we and our children have enjoyed for over 60 years.

DISGUSTED SIBLINGS

A. If this property is jointly owned by your five family members with no specific leadership structure, then you are going to need consensus — as well as the assistance of a lawyer to sort through your options.

You should start by researching your legal, practical, and personal options, and call a meeting (virtual or in-person) with the other owners (not including your brother) to discuss this openly and try to form a consensus about what to do about this property, and how to try to handle your brother, who seems to have spiraled into a bad place and is now controlling all of you.

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Unfortunately, because your brother is a part-owner of the property, it might prove impossible to evict him. If he doesn’t agree to sell the property, you and your siblings would have to go to court to try to force a sale.


Q. A friend of mine, “Lynn,” passed away two months ago after battling cancer for over two years. She and her husband, “Andy,” moved to our city five years ago, and Lynn and I became fast friends after meeting through mutual friends.

I’m struggling to figure out how I can continue to be a supportive friend to Andy. He’s an active 70-year-old, and he obviously has a lifetime of much-closer friends, both here and in other cities. It feels awkward to try to create a closer friendship with him, but I don’t want to abandon him. I think of Lynn and him every day.

Our husbands know each other, as we’ve been guests in each others’ homes, and of course my husband spoke with Andy at the memorial service, but the primary friendship was between Lynn and me, so my husband will not be reaching out to Andy.

I don’t want to burden Andy with “just checking in/thinking of you” text messages, and I just don’t know what is appropriate in this situation and what would be welcomed or appreciated by him.

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GRIEVING FRIEND

A. You haven’t known “Andy” very long — and you might not know him very well, but you should check in with him. Invite him out for coffee with just the two of you, or ask if he’d like to come to your home for drinks or dinner.

If you are hosting a gathering with other friends, ask if he would like to join you. He can accept or decline your overtures, and if he accepts he might develop a friendship with you and your husband — or others in your circle.

Yes, this is awkward. Push through that feeling and reach out.


Q. “Open Minded Daughter” had discovered the man whose sperm was used for her conception. She said her folks had never told her and she was worried about confronting them.

I think she should talk to her mother first. It’s possible that her mother never disclosed this to her husband.

BEEN THERE

A. I am aware that some women have conceived children through donation without disclosing to their partners. Good advice.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.