Dear Amy:

When I was growing up, my father was an alcoholic. Subsequently, he and my mother split and divorced when I was 7 and my sister was 5. I have many memories of my father drunk and the terrible way he treated my mother.

My sister, on the other hand, was very young and didn't remember the same things I did.

My sister decided in her adult life to bring our father to live in her town and to have a relationship with him that she never had as a child. She set him up with housing, got his bills in order and set a pretty good program for him. He decided to throw it all in her face, to run off and marry for the sixth time, and he actually ended up in a bad marriage and was miserable. She decided not to bail him out, and so he remains in his miserable marriage.

Our father, who is now in his eighties, is managing fairly well, but my sister has been keeping an eye on him because they live in the same town. I live in another state, 21/2 away.

My sister was recently diagnosed with cancer. She will be going through aggressive treatment starting in a week. She needs to care for herself so that she can get better. She should not have to worry about our father.

Should I be expected to care for this man when he has never been there for us?

I want to do what is right, especially for my sister.

Sha-Sha

The right thing to do is to help out with your father. Does he deserve your attention? No. Is it going to be tough and uncomfortable for you? Undoubtedly. However, your father might not need as much care as you imagine. It sounds as if your sister has done a good job of setting things up for him. Your father also has a wife, who presumably can assume some responsibility for him.

You should concentrate on your sister and take your cues from her. You should make time to help her out until her situation is more stable. She is going to need your support, and I hope that you will give it.

If she needs for you to go over to your father's house to check up on him, then you should.

One reason to help with your father is because doing so will help you to come to terms with your childhood. When you do the right thing, you assert your own humanity. You rise above your own misfortune. That should be more important to you at this point than how your father has so thoroughly mismanaged his own life.

Dear Amy:

In response to your reader who has a workplace crush, I wanted to tell you my recent experience, which has a happy ending. I fell hard for a guy at my office with whom I work closely. The feelings were mutual. I thought through the consequences and decided it wasn't worth my children growing up in a broken home or hurting my husband, who is a good man. The crush lasted for two long, painful years. Looking back, I think the feelings had to run their course.

In the meantime, I limited contact with him outside the office. I prayed. And I told my husband that another man was attracted to me, though I did not say that I returned his feelings. My husband was angry at first, but then he began working to make our marriage better, and so did I. Gradually, I was able to turn my feelings back toward my husband.

The question everyone asks themselves is whether the crush indicates a problem in the marriage, and I would say that, in my case, it did. I also think that a crush is so flattering, particularly to middle-age people. I'm glad that I chose to work on my marriage.

Anonymous

I'm glad that your husband also chose to work on his marriage. People don't seem to believe that they can get over a workplace crush (they can) or that they should use such a crush as a reason to take a long, hard look at their other relationships (they must).

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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