DEAR MISS MANNERS: A family friend that my wife knew growing up, but was never close friends with, sent her a notice of her sons high school graduation, along with a picture of the son. Never in all these years did my wife receive any other pictures, holiday cards or even an announcement when the son was born, so this is the first weve known of him.
By JUDITH MARTIN
Now Im curious as to what to do about the notice. I always send family and close friends monetary gifts upon graduation, but those are kids who have been close to us in terms of contact and such.
Do we ignore the notice as just a my son has made it-type thing, or are we obligated in some way to send a gift? Sending a congratulations card with no money in it would be disappointing to the boy in my eyes.
GENTLE READER: And you wouldnt want to disappoint someone who is expecting to reap money from people he never met and who didnt know of his existence?
But, then, you have not heard from the son, so Miss Manners sees no obligation to address him. The polite thing for your wife to do would be to write the family friend, saying how nice it was to hear from her after all these years and congratulating her on her sons graduation. There is no need to speculate on the motives of the mother, and no need to pay him.
Responding to queries about illness
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has a chronic, debilitating illness. Frequently I field phone calls from his family or queries from friends I run into, and I dont seem to have the right answer for Hows Bob?
I hate telling people the situation is awful every time I talk to them. Some people dont really want to know, and its depressing for everyone else. Ive tried out, Theres no change, About the same or Hes managing, but even those are getting stale. I already know I cant respond with a casual Hes fine, because people often take that to mean hes improved, inevitably leading to a need for clarification.
He has one family member I would like to tell this: When I say hes OK, what I really mean is that nothing has changed, some days are worse than others, we dont expect it to improve, hes not in the hospital and hes not dead. Thats what OK means to us.
My husband emphasizes his poor condition to this person, and wants me to do the same, so the family member will leave him alone. I havent observed it to be effective. Any suggestions I can add to my repertoire?
GENTLE READER: About as well as can be expected, thank you. Ill tell him you called.
Miss Manners realizes that this is no better than what you have been saying, but its longer, and the last part is a sign-off, so she hopes it will help. Please allow her to say that she also hopes that you dont dismiss everyone but are frank with the people whom you and he really care about for their sake, yours and your husbands.
© Universal Uclick 5/15
Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com, or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.