Dear Annie: I am 40 years old and have a younger brother. My mother died a few years ago. My father is 67, in good health and very active. We all live near one another.

In June, I received a Facebook message from a woman in another state saying she is the mother of Dad’s 42-year-old son. It included contact information for “Chris” and a few photos of him with my Dad when Chris was about 10. Chris is now a successful businessman with a wife and two kids. Chris agreed that it would be nice to know his siblings. However, out of respect for us, he will do nothing unless we make the first move.

As you can imagine, I hit the roof. I am furious that my parents hid this from us all these years. My brother and I visited Dad, who was quite upset that this woman had made contact. He said she was merely a girl he dated after college and the child was “an accident.” He supported Chris financially, but there was minimal contact because Chris’ mom moved around a lot. It bothered my mother that Dad would visit Chris, so he hasn’t seen him since that photo was taken. Dad asked the woman never to contact my brother or me. Chris sent an occasional Christmas card to Dad, but that was it.

Here is the problem: Dad said he would be extremely angry if we chose to communicate with Chris. Annie, we don’t have much family. Chris is our brother. Have we lost too many years to start a relationship? How should we handle this and keep the peace with Dad? — New Sibling

Dear Sibling: This is no longer Dad’s decision to make. You are an adult. Your adult half-sibling would like to be in touch. Whether or not to make contact is up to you, and yes, you could certainly have a relationship at any age. Dad will be upset, but we think he will eventually forgive you. And who knows? Perhaps he would even be willing to get to know his oldest son someday. We hope so.

Dear Annie: Whenever I converse with my sister-in-law, she refers to my brother as “my husband.” Why doesn’t she say “your brother”? Or even use his first name? Obviously, I know him pretty well. He’s my only sibling.

Is this poor etiquette, or am I being too sensitive about it? — Kentucky Sis

Dear Kentucky: This is not an etiquette issue. It’s a matter of personal preference — yours and hers. You find it overly formal (and probably a bit proprietary) that she refers to your brother this way when speaking to you. But we’d guess she refers to him as “my husband” no matter who she is talking to. It’s an ingrained habit and may not be worth trying to change. You can point it out at the time, saying innocently, “Do you mean John?” She’ll think that’s painfully obvious, but it will force her to think about what she is saying, and over time, it could make a difference.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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