Life Advice



Ask Amy: Vietnam War casts long shadow over family

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: More than 50 years ago, my sister married a guy who skipped the States after being drafted into the US Army (it was during the Vietnam War).

I was also drafted and served, including going to Vietnam.

My mother was totally against my sister marrying this guy because he was on the lam.

I was asked to meet with his parents when they came to my Mom's house, with instructions from my parents to make it very clear that they were totally against this marriage, making me the bad guy in this scenario.

My sister told our mom that if I wanted to attend the wedding, the invitation was left on top of my mom's refrigerator. I took it personally because I was married and living with my wife and son and the invitation should have been sent to our home address.

I did not attend the ceremony.

They still live outside the country, but their children – my nephews and nieces – are American citizens and live here. They are grown and have kids of their own.

They greet me with respect and call me uncle.

My sister and I never got close again. I have yet to meet my brother-in-law in person.

They are now alone in a foreign country with no intention of coming back.

What steps can I take to build a better relationship with them?

– The Older Brother

Dear Older Brother: When faced with the prospect of welcoming a draft-dodger into the family (after you have served), you are reacting to the far less serious matter of where your sister left a wedding invitation.

But you know this is not just about an invitation, but about a series of events that shook your family and removed your sister from your family’s life.

Your sister’s husband chose to leave the country rather than serve in the military in a war that divided the country along justified matters of conscience.

(In 1977, President Carter issued an unconditional pardon to the approximately 100,000 drafted men who left the country, and according to an article published by, around half of them returned to the States.)

If you want to try to restore and rebuild a relationship, you should reach out. A good way in might be to let them know that you enjoy having a relationship with their children and grandchildren, and that this has motivated you to try to build a better relationship with their parents, before it is too late.

Dear Amy: My son married “Marian,” who made it clear that he was too close to his mom (me) and that this must stop.

She wants no part of us except for when she needs a babysitter.

In spite of her attitude toward us, we have been very generous with them because we adore our three grandchildren and have a great relationship with them.

We’ve paid for summer camp and all the extracurricular activities for the children, along with the down payment for their house.


However, we are not allowed to buy the grandchildren gifts.

I know I put up with too much disrespect from both of them for many years, just to be able to see the grandchildren.

Recently our young granddaughter seemed proud about scores on tests that she took in school.

When I asked my son about it he said, ”It’s none of your business.”

This was the last straw.

My husband has had it and is done with them. I feel the same. But now they won’t let the children have contact with us.

– Hurting

Dear Hurting: Your son and his wife have used you for years. And now that they have the house, the extras, and probably limited need for a babysitter, they are done with you.

Of course they won’t let you see the kids! They’ve been using these kids as leverage, and they don’t seem to care about the impact of this loss on their own children.

I’m very sorry.

Dear Amy: I disagree with your advice to “Fun Neighbor,” who planned progressive dinners.

As the primary organizer, she is entitled to put boundaries on "extra" guests.

If others want a different concept with an open-door policy, they can arrange their own dinner party.

Many years ago, I was part of a similar group. Only the hosts (who provided the main course and theme) were at liberty to invite extra guests.

It's unfortunate that you singled out this letter writer for judgment.

– Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: This neighbor seemed extremely rigid, but I take your point.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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