Dear Amy: I'm a single dad. In the past six months, I have met a wonderful woman.
I'm 45 and she is 41. She does not have children of her own but is very close with her brother and two sisters, and her young nieces.
They are a very close family. They get together on Sundays.
The problem is that her father is a chronic smoker. He smokes in the house to the point where you cannot breathe, and I have been left gasping for air.
I have stopped going over to the house and will not bring my own children there. She is well aware of why I do not visit this house, and her parents ask where I am and why they never see me.
This is causing so much stress between us, as well as some fights. I was told that talking to her father and asking him to stop smoking is not an option.
What to do?
-- Non-Smoking Dad
Dear Dad: No, you should not ask this man to stop smoking. It is his life, his house, and his addiction.
A very simple explanation for why you can't visit this home is that you have a serious reaction when you are exposed to smoke, or the residue of it.
If this family had a passel of cats and you were allergic to dander, you would have to make a similar choice. You would not ask them to get rid of their cats, but you would very sensibly have to keep your distance from the house.
None of this precludes you becoming close to this family. You could picnic together, go on walks, invite them to your home, and take her nieces and your children on outings together.
If your friend is pressuring you to spend time inside an environment that makes you suffer, how good a friend is she to you?
This is something you should think about as you two continue to work this out.
Dear Amy: "Teacher in a Quandary" reached out regarding a rare collection of objects that were left behind by one of her students.
I graduated from high school in 1998. Many years ago, while learning about World War II in my 11th grade U.S. history class, my grandfather, a veteran of that war, gave me several priceless items from his time serving our country.
I chose to bring these items into school to share with my teacher and classmates, and sadly, I failed to bring them home. For many years my family asked about those items, and I carried a lot of guilt with me for my lack of responsibility with such an important part of history and my grandfather's story.
A few years ago, the high school that I attended began a major renovation, which caused many teachers to move from classrooms that they had taught in for decades.
One evening, I was waiting in a hallway outside my young daughter's classroom, and my U.S. history teacher passed by. I asked him about the long-lost items, and he told me to wait a few minutes.
Upon his return he carried with him all of the items that I had left in his classroom almost 20 years before! He had kept them for many years, waiting for me to come back to claim them.
When he cleaned his classroom out for the move, he found them in the back of a closet and kept them, hoping that someday they would make it back to my family.
My eyes fill with tears as I write this, years later, and I can never thank him enough for keeping them safe.
I encourage "Teacher" to do everything she can to locate the student or a family member who rightfully owns these items.
-- Lesson Learned
Dear Lesson Learned: I'm delighted to publish your reunification story, in hopes that it will inspire "Teacher in a Quandary" to make greater efforts to connect these heirlooms with their owners.
Dear Amy: I would love to have my nieces and nephews in my life.
When I was in my 20s, I contracted HIV. I got sick in 1979, and diagnosed in 1983. I pulled away because I was told I was going to die in a few years.
Now at 65 -- I regret it. They have their lives, and I just wish they would mail me pictures. Maybe they will read this?
-- Mat in Boston