Ask Alma: Unwanted photos of my ex-husband


Dear Alma

I recently decided to digitize my old photos and ran across a ton of family pictures of my first husband as a baby and while he was growing up, along with his family. We had a short marriage and divorced after only two years. My first husband and I didn’t have any children together, so I haven’t been in contact with him over the years. I wasn’t very close to his family, either. When we came home from college together, I didn’t pass the paper bag test (if you know what I mean) but that’s another question for another day.

During our marriage, I never quite measured up when it came to his mother and she let me know it at every opportunity she could. He was the only son and truly devoted to his parents. I’m very happily remarried now and have been for over 20 years. I’m not sure if he’s remarried and I don’t really have any interest in contacting him. Sometimes people can misread your intentions and I don’t want this to be the case. But what I do want to do is forward this box of pictures to his parents. I’ve checked and confirmed their home address. My plan is to send the box without a return address, so that way they won’t feel obligated to get in touch with me. But if I do, they might not even know where the box came from. I definitely don’t want to throw them away. I know it would be a wonderful surprise for them to receive them. What do you think Alma, how can I return these photographs incognito?

Name withheld

Take a step back, Detective Benson, I think you’ve added more Law & Order than what’s necessary to complete this pursuit. Don’t get it twisted on your end. This is a very thoughtful act on your part and that’s all it is. Just let that be. Without rereading the entire map of your first marriage misfortunes, I’d venture to say you have legitimate reasons for anticipating the worst of the worst and, you could be right. But you also could be wrong. You said you’ve gone on with your life. You’re happily remarried, totally and unequivocally uninterested in line dancing with your ex-husband’s family foolishness. Ok, I get it. But I think you’re moving way ahead of yourself here. We’re talking returning old pictures. You aren’t inviting them to attend your granddaughter’s graduation celebration.

It’s not what you have in your hand but what you have in your heart that lays the groundwork for this task of thoughtfulness. I applaud you for not holding a grudge towards your ex-husband and his family. If you’ve got the right attitude and you’re sending the pictures with the best of intentions, there’s no need to expect discord, disharmony or discontent.

Yes, absolutely add a note that says: Hello, I recently ran across these photographs and just knew I had to return them to your family. All the best blessings to you and yours. Signed, you.

There’s no room or need for a suggestion of follow up in those words. Once you’ve sent the pictures, it out of your hands. You can’t control their reaction, you can only control your response. So stop worrying about it. If they follow up with foolishness – as they say in Brooklyn, just FagetAboutIt!

Although I’ve gotta say, I don’t think they will. Time has passed, wounds have healed, and old ways have changed. Send the box, with the note, I can tell your heart is in the right place. By the way, I don’t think the post office will let you send letters or packages without a return address. But I am certain that you can come up with someone’s return address.

All the best of blessings to you and yours.

Signed, Alma

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.