Dear Annie: Twenty years ago, my 16-year-old son left my home in North Dakota to live with his mother in Arizona. He was tired of my drinking and the poor living conditions we had. Not long after he left, I went into alcohol treatment and started a long affiliation with AA. I now have nearly 20 years of sobriety.
For a number of years, I was able to keep track of where my son lived, but have not been able to find him for quite some time, although I've tried everything I can think of to locate him. I found an e-mail address for my daughter, who lived with her mother after the divorce. She probably does not remember me, and if she is getting my messages, she has not replied.
I still love both of my children and would like to make amends to them and have some kind of communication. I'd like to know if they are married, if I have grandchildren, if they are happy.
I know you're not a missing person's bureau, but maybe you could suggest some way to get in touch with them. -- Forlorn Father
Dear Father: Even if you find an address, it won't help unless your children choose to communicate with you. You're going to have to do this the hard way.
Contact your ex-wife or your ex-in-laws. Explain to them what you told us, and ask for their help in re-establishing contact with your children. If you are looking only to love your children and get to know them again, it would be in everyone's best interest to facilitate a meeting. Good luck.
Dear Annie: My husband and I studied hard in school, found terrific jobs and make a very good living. In addition, we live below our means and have no debt. We're not interested in expensive baubles, gadgets, vacations, cars or things we don't need. We save most of our earnings, and we don't advertise our situation.
The problem is with a dear friend who is the complete opposite -- spend, spend, spend. "Irene" and her family squeak by on one modest income, and she has told me, often, about the stress their financial difficulties cause in their marriage.
Irene insists on sending me very expensive gifts. I accept them graciously but have repeatedly told her such generosity is not necessary. A card, letter or something modest would be appreciated just as much. I know she can't afford these things and is buying them on credit. These gifts are only going to cause more stress for her family.
I value Irene's companionship, and she certainly doesn't need to buy my friendship. How can I make it clear, without hurting her feelings, that I don't want her to spend money on me? -- No Name, No State
Dear No Name: The gift-giving is not for you. It's for Irene. For whatever reason, it gives her satisfaction. Unfortunately, you cannot tell Irene how to spend her money. She may be less extravagant if you stop reacting. So, say "thank you," and no more, and then use the item or give it to charity.
Dear Annie: My teenager recently attended a week-long, out-of-town sports camp and told me that, while there, two kids (whose parents I know) used marijuana. I'm not sure what, if anything, to do with this information. I also don't want my child to think I betrayed a confidence. Any suggestions? -- Wondering Mom
Dear Mom: If you are friendly with the parents, you might casually start a discussion on the subject, saying you heard there was pot-smoking at the sports camp. This gives you an opportunity to caution that not all parents know what their teenagers are doing, and you're going to keep an eye on yours and trust they will do the same. How they choose to deal with it after that is up to them. (Kudos, Mom, on having teenagers who confide in you.)
"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.