Ask Alma: My father refused to help me pay for college, now he needs my help

Dear Alma,

My parents divorced when I was nine. It was cool, because I spent a lot of time with my father and I got along well with my stepfather. My biological father and I had a great relationship and spent weekends and holidays together. Things changed after I graduated from high school. My father worked three jobs and was very serious about instilling in me the importance of hard work, but he didn’t see the need to go to college. He did everything for me, but he wouldn’t pay or contribute to my college education. I talked to him and told him how important it was to me, but he just wouldn’t. He didn’t even come to my college graduation. I didn’t then and still don’t understand. I’m now a father and will do everything to help my boys go to college. I have a great salary and have started their college fund. Here’s the reason I e-mailed you. My father’s health is failing. He isn’t ready for a nursing home, but he needs help, because he lives alone. I don’t want to help him, because he didn’t help me. How can I explain to him, he doesn’t deserve my help?


My Father’s Son

Dear My Father’s Son,

Hmmmm, slow your roll my darling. I sympathize with you and totally understand your side of this situation, but you know what – you’re wrong. Yep, you’re wrong and your Daddy was wrong and two wrongs don’t make one right. Your life didn’t start when you graduated high school. Sounds like the two of you maintained a wonderful relationship up until then. His teachings and example of hard work, propelled you many a night when it came to cramming, and hitting those books, I’m sure. I know you are hurt and you felt abandoned, but you know what – you did it; you succeeded. His decision not to donate or contribute to your education didn’t stop you from completing your academic goals and graduating from college. Congratulations to you. Sure, you’ve got student loans and other grown up bills to pay, but don’t we all? It’s time to let that go.

In my opinion when it comes to caring for our parents, that’s a responsibility regardless of the relationship, unless there’s some kind of abuse. Reason being, both of my parents have gone on to be with the Lord and you know what, I can’t remember one argument. I don’t recall one disagreement or a time when I just didn’t want anything to do with them. Mind you, there were many LOL moments, I just choose not to recall. At this stage of my life I’ve realized, none of that nonsense was important anyway.

You’re the creator of the life story your sons will recall and remember. You have an obligation to rewrite this chapter when it comes to what happened between you and your father. You can blaze a new path in your family legacy, one that includes the support for education. Teach by example to your sons and be there for your father. Show your young men how you are honoring your father in his time of need, here at the end of his life. Choose to be at your best for your boys. It’s not about your Dad or the cracks in the wall of your relationship. This is about what your sons will see, while they’re watching you, be the best son you can to your father.

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.

Ask Alma: My messy co-worker has no home training

Dear Alma,

I work in a small accounting office of 16 people. We sit in cubicles very close to one another and we have more men than women. This is important to share as I explain my situation. I have a problem with one of my co-workers. She’s a very young woman who insists on sitting with her legs wide open. She will turn away from her desk and what seems to be purposely, prop up one leg so you can see under her dress. I know this sounds crazy, but she does. And every time she does it I think, WTH! When we have meetings in the conference room, she puts her feet in her chair and sits so you can look all the way up her dress. I am sick of it! Some of the other employees talk about her behind her back. They even make jokes about it. I know that it’s immature. She’s a mess, what she’s doing is a mess, the stupid jokes are a mess and I’ve had enough. What should I do?


Tired of the mess

Dear Tired of the Mess,

Help me to clarify, are you mad because she’s trying to show her cookies in the office or are you mad that you don’t have enough nerve to do the same? LOL. Nah, I’m just kidding, I can see the steam coming outta your ears. Truthfully I’m clarifying because, sometimes I get mad about an act someone else is doing that irritates me, but when my nitty checks my gritty, I’m really irritated, because I don’t have enough nerve to do the same. With that being said, in your case I’m sticking to door number one, and be grateful along with your mother, that you aren’t looking to “show all you know” in the next staff meeting.

Trust me when I say that you’re not alone in your exasperation of experiencing an unnecessary glance of ones undies. I’ve seen short dresses giving off a light show that would rival a neighborhood 4th of July fireworks display. And I know there’s gotta be a breeze. You’re right. This form of a sometimes dainty display can make for a very uncomfortable situation in the workplace. Here’s my take, you can choose to do one of two things. Either send an anonymous note to Human Resources or grab your big girl glove and pitch it to her straight. The next time she’s spread eagle at her desk, hand her a note (no, not an e-mail) a note that says, “Girl, adjust yourself. I really don’t feel like looking up your dress right now,” LOL. I think a note is appropriate, because you’re one of many in a small office setting. Follow up with a whisper of “Thanks, I hope we’re cool, no worries.” Allow yourself to be super, super casual and not come across demanding. Kind of like you would in the community room of your dorm. With that acknowledgement, you have laid all her cards on the table, now it’s up to her to win, lose or cover up her drawzz. That’s what my mama use to call ‘em.

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.

PHOTO CAPTION: Alma Gill says that when it comes to problems in the workplace, either let Human Resources handle them or have an open-dialogue with the offender.

Ask Alma: My awkward niece wants to be the next Gabby Douglas

Dear Alma,

My niece is all in love with Gabby Douglas and thinks she can one day tryout for the Olympic team. LOL, now that’s funny. She’s awkward, uncoordinated and too fat to be in the Olympics. Her laugh is so loud it makes my skin crawl and I have never, ever seen her exercise. Her mother is getting on my last nerve. She’s collecting money from the family for her daughter to start gymnastic lessons. She said it’s expensive and she needs help. Help? For what? A teenage fat farm? My niece is not, let me repeat, not Olympic material. I am embarrassed and I’m not trying to give her any of my hard earned money and neither should anyone else in the family. I’m sure I can use Facebook, but how else can I let all our friends and family know they should not contribute to this disaster?


Keepin It Real with My Niece

Dear Keepin It Real,

Oh my, my, girl, I hereby nominate you as runner up for the worst aunt in the world! Why would you speak such negative comments about your niece? What you think and what you feel are just your opinion and your feelings are note facts. Speaking again of your comments, I just gotta say, they sure do look ugly on you.

Your niece has the right, in this country at least, to pursue her dreams without your permission. Passions are personal and grow inside the hearts of each of us, individually. You don’t get to pick which dreams work best for someone else. When a child shows interest, your role is to lead the way. When a young person becomes absorbed in a particular sport, artistic endeavor or reading activity, it’s your responsibility as the adult, to assist them in said particular pursuit – positively!

Lookahear Auntie Unlucky, find your path to patience and take a long, long walk. Clear your mind and ponder, not everything that pops in your brain needs to trickle down and spill out of your mouth. Move out of your nieces’ way, and stop trying to block her blessings. If you can’t control your negativity and shush your mouth, just write a check and keep your distance. She doesn’t need your wrong wind beneath her wings to fly to success. Change your attitude or get out of her way.

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.

ASK ALMA: My cheating ex wants me to befriend his daughter

Dear Alma,

I joined the Air Force after graduating from high school. It seemed like the best decision for me and my boyfriend at the time. We wanted to be on our own and start a new life together. We promised to remain faithful to each other, until we could get married once I was settled and sent to my duty station. Well, all that came to a halt when I found out another woman was pregnant by him. He tried to apologize and tell me that he still wanted to get married, but I couldn’t. I was heartbroken and just couldn’t bear the thought of co-parenting this child that would be a constant reminder of his betrayal.

We found each other on Facebook last year, so we started communicating again. We both apologized and had a long conversation about how we could have better handled the situation. I forgave him. I mean after all, life carried on. We’ve both been married and are both currently divorced. I don’t have any children. He has four. We met a few months ago and although there weren’t any heavy flames, we decided we will remain the best of friends. He’s now seeing someone else, so we agreed to stay in touch and talk often.

His oldest, the one that broke up our relationship, will start college next year in what’s currently my hometown. He says he’s excited that we’re talking again, because she doesn’t know anyone in the area. He has mentioned on more than one occasion that I can become her family away from family.

I’ve got to be honest, Alma, I don’t think that’s something I want to do. I can honestly say I’m over what happened many years ago, but I don’t want to meet his daughter. How can I let him know, “No thanks,” without coming off childish about the situation?

Signed, Cheating Ex Needs My Help Now

You’re coming off childish and immature, because that’s still where your heart is. TBT, you’re stuck in that summer after high school graduation, and that’s a long, long way away from forgiving. You’re still so deep in this yearbook of a broken heart, you can’t even turn the page. Let me help you let this go, because honestly, enough time has passed for your heart to have healed.

Take my hand and let’s face your truth. Here’s where we take a minute to grieve the perfect relationship you thought would last forever. Over the years, you’ve been able to fantasize and worship this extraordinary courtship that never was. You said you’ve forgiven him, but ahh raah, my sista, I’m not seeing that. Not in your words or actions.

Entertaining forgiveness alone hurts and constantly reminds you of the pain unless you forget. What you’ve gotta do is, erase, delete, zap, remove, shazam, be gone – Umhm, get it allll ooooout! Yes, yes, that’s right, remove it completely from your recollection. I know this takes determination, practice and prayer, but that’s okay, you can do it.

Before you make your decision based on a twenty year-old emotion, lace up your big girl sneakers and invite her to meet for lunch. The encounter will update your gut, give clarity to your heart and make room for the forgiveness you speak of.

Step out in maturity and faith. You aren’t that teenage girl whose heart was broken by her daddy anymore.

The circumstances of her birth, in relation to you, are not her fault. That baby girl doesn’t know details I’m sure, or at least I hope. He most likely speaks highly of you and your friendship since high school. No dirty details were necessary in the discussion. I think you may find that she’s a lovely young lady. One who happens to be in your city all alone.

The way you handle a situation at 20 should be vastly different from the way you handle it at 40. Flip the script and be the blessing she needs at this time. You never know, this acquaintance might only last a season or a semester, open up to it. I’ve got a feeling meeting her will warm your heart, allow for forgiveness, and bring about a positive resolution to what was once a painful memory.

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.

ASK ALMA: High school reunion baby bombshell

Dear Alma,

I hope I can explain this right, because I really need your help. I don’t want to go to family with this, not yet. About a year and a half ago I went back to my 30th year high school reunion and had a really great time. I’ve been divorced for over eight years, so it was good to see so many old girlfriends. I hadn’t been back to my hometown for a really long time. I’ve had short visits every once in a while since joining the Army after graduation. Shortly after my visit, my homie called to tell me Sharon (not her real name) wanted to talk to me about my son. Sharon is one of my old girlfriends. I was like, what! I NEVER knew she was pregnant and I certainly didn’t know we had a son. I was shocked by what he said and didn’t follow through. I thought, if it was true, she should contact me directly and handle her business a little better than that. Fast forward two months ago I read on Facebook, Sharon had died. I don’t know what to do. Should I reach out to her son? He has to be at least 30 years old by now. How do I approach a grown man about being his father all these years later? Maybe I should just leave it alone, but it bothers me more and more every day. I’ll be honest, I’m angry and pissed! What is your advice?


Father Maybe

Wow, I can’t imagine the shock, surprise, resentment and disbelief. Clearly, you’re wrestling over this 30 year bombshell , blast from your past news that has bruised. Talk about a knock out — I feel you, son. Hopefully, my ability to sympathize and connect will break the ice and allow us to have a mini, meaningful, mature conversation. This is enormous, and yes, yes, you have every right to be outraged. My advice is first, do what you do to relieve stress, then, get to crackin’ and clean up this mess.

The pain of a child overrides the pain of a parent. He’s grown, but you’re “growner” (my word, you know what I’m sayin’). As the parent, you must make this right. Is it too late for you to reconcile? No with a capital NO! Don’t you dare take your mind down that road of disillusionment. That’s a cop out. Ummhm, the same clumsy, selfish, inconsiderate decision his mother made years ago. The reality is you owe it to your son to “man up and own your circumstances.” It’s time to acknowledge him and correct it. Mama tried, whatever, better late than never. We’ll never know her reasons why. Today belongs to you, make it right, make him whole, cause that’s what fathers do.

If you aren’t looking to get or gain anything from your son, I’d say by all means, take the first step. Approach him unconditionally with an open heart. Be frank, he can handle it. He’ll make the next move, respect it. If it’s a positive reaction, what a blessing. If it’s a negative, he has reasons, thirty of ‘em. So keep at it, don’t give up on him. Never, ever speak ill of his mother under any circumstances. Accept the empathy that’s overwhelming you and respond to it, don’t ignore it. Sharon’s watching down from heaven, praying you’ll do the right thing and so am I.

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.

ASK ALMA: My boyfriend’s controlling, but I love him

Dear Alma,

Hi Alma. My name is K. I’ve been with my boyfriend almost 4 years. He works but doesn’t make enough to help me. He makes up for it though in EVERY OTHER AREA, and he’s also a little controlling. He’s taken my engagement ring from me 3 times and I went and bought my own replacement ring and he told me that no other ring should be on that finger, and made me take it off. Should I continue in this relationship? Oh and yes I do love him.

— K

Well K, it depends. Yes, if you’re 16 and No if your 26. News flash! Your boyfriend isn’t ready to get married and neither are you. When you love someone and you’re ready to commit, you don’t take back the ring every time there’s a problem. And you especially don’t go out and get a replacement ring, frontin’ to your friends, so they don’t see the real deal. What your partner offers, is who he really is. You can’t change, transform or rearrange anyone. Wise up to the truth of the matter, when it comes to your relationships. Otherwise you’re living in the fantasy of what you want your life to be. Stick to what you can control. The truth, that’s what you can change and transform.

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.

ASK ALMA: When your partner’s not interested in sex

Dear Alma,

Over my long Thanksgiving weekend, everywhere I went I encountered my married brothas complaining about the same thing – wives not wanting or initiating sex. It was as much a constant as football and turkey.

These are good men, Alma. They want to do the right thing, but some feel trapped. They can be faithful and celibate or they can creep. And yes, some have already strayed. (One married friend told of an encounter he had with his girlfriend inside a bathroom that made our hair stand on end.) We all agreed that our wives would never do something so…so…so…so damned sexy and daring. Tell me, Alma. Why do wives avoid sex with their husbands (when the girlfriends can’t seem to get enough)? And don’t give me that lame excuse about wives having to work on their jobs then come home to do housework and homework. Most of my friends share equally in housekeeping and child-rearing duties. Simply put, if a wife won’t “cook” for her man at home, shouldn’t she expect him to occasionally eat out?

— Signed, A Real Bro

Dear A Real Bro,

You’re kidding, right? Aaaahhh, no. You are not allowed to switch to fast food after you’ve committed to a fine dining establishment. Since this is the holiday season, I think it’s high time I address this issue and let you guys in on a “cooking” secret. Hear me when I say this: A thoroughly basted turkey turns out moist and tender every time. Are you feeling me? Let me break it down. In the beginning, you really don’t have to do much to get the gravy going. But once you’ve had your favorite holiday dish year after year, we all know what to expect. You need to spice that sucker up just a little every now and again. Add a little more hot sauce here and a little less mustard there. It just depends on the occasion. Give the turkey in your kitchen all the attention it deserves.

You don’t need to take that extra effort outside your home, ‘cause either way you’re putting out effort. Why not display all your extra trimmings where it feeds and nurtures your commitment? Reach into the cabinet and take out everything you got. While you’re waiting for the oven to get hot, delicately rub and pat down your turkey. Please tell me you pulled it out of the freezer this morning and you’ve given it appropriate time and assistance to thaw. Add all the ingredients necessary. Don’t be shy; good cooks make sure they get all up in those nooks and crannies. That’s the old school way; you’ve got to put your foot in it. LOL. Once you’ve seasoned that bad boy to the best of your ability, trust me, it’s ready to roast. (And the specials of the week will make you blush!)

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.

Ask Alma: My wife’s emailing an old boyfriend in jail

Dear Alma,

I found e-mails my wife has been writing to an old boyfriend who’s now in jail. He will be locked up for a long, long time. At first I wasn’t all that concerned, but now she’s sending him pictures. I found out, because I read her e-mail when she’s not home. I saw where she told him, “I can’t wait to get your letters” and “I wonder if you’re looking at my pictures and thinking about me.” Even though this man is in jail, it still affects me just as if she was writing to someone out in the streets. Am I being petty, or am I right in thinking that she is disrespecting me? I love my wife, but this really makes me wonder.

— Mr. Wondering

Dear Mr. Wondering,

And wonder you should, but there’s more than a few apps on disloyalty downloaded on your cell phone. Why are you checking your wife’s e-mail when she’s not home? After addressing that, you can move on to your issue with the inmate. Nope, you’re not being petty. You just need to nip this rusty nail in the bud. It seems to me something was cockeyed before you caught sight of those e-mails. I’m not excusing her behavior, because infidelity is selfish and, yes, disrespectful. But some parts to this story you aren’t telling me. Tell her why you’re reading her email, and then ask her about her contact with him. Make sure you both honestly talk about both sides to this situation. Speak the truth to each other, not just saying words you think the other wants to hear. Equally important, listen to each other. If she makes this about you and the e-mails, then she’s not ready to own her unfaithful behavior. Yes, you were wrong, but she’s wrong too, and both issues need to be admitted, confronted and discussed. Give purposeful thought to what you two want out of your marriage. Since he’ll be locked up, as you say, for a long, long time, both of you can work at this and take the necessary steps to rebuild your commitment, reminding each other that your devotion is crucial to saving your union. And don’t forget to apologize to each other. It is my hope that you two will find your way back to seeing each other through new eyes – eyes of forgiveness, blinking with compassion and winking with desire.

— 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.

Ask Alma: Boyfriend wants second chance

Dear Alma,

My boyfriend left me to be with another woman. It wasn’t the first time he’s cheated, but it is the first time he moved out. He came by last weekend and asked if he could come back. He confided in me that he wasn’t looking to cheat and that it just happened. He also said I had not been giving him the attention he needs and that’s the reason he thinks it happened so fast. I don’t’ want to lose him and I do want to do what’s necessary to make our relationship work. I’m not sure how to regain his trust. He asked me if he could still be friends with this woman and friends with the friends they made and he said he wouldn’t cheat on me again with her. I told him I’m not comfortable with that arrangement, but I just want to make sure I’m not being unreasonable. So how do I get him to see he has to meet me halfway and convince him we should go to counseling? I’m praying it all works out.


Dear Uncomfortable,

Are you being unreasonable: Noooo! Considering couples’ counseling and meeting halfway, girl, you betta breakaway! No, he can’t move back. As a matter of fact, change the locks to be certain he doesn’t still have a key.

Usually, I’m all for making it work, but this isn’t a relationship. This is a roommate situation with benefits. Since last night was not your last night, can you plaheeze snap out of it! Why on God’s green earth would you even consider begging, pleading, negotiating, conceding, for someone to be a part of your life, who clearly doesn’t want to?

Surprise yourself by being honest about why you’re allowing this type of guy to be your best companion. Don’t rush this process Sweetness, it may take several nights and several glasses of wine, you know what I’m sayin, LOL.

Number one on your agenda: don’t be afraid to be alone; participating in a bad relationship is not better than being single. Wondering if your man is cheating on you because he’s late getting home isn’t a common assumption within a positive, committed relationship. Here’s a word of wisdom: wise up and stop babysitting your womanizer. He will never be yours. There’s nothing worthwhile in this fishbowl of foolishness! Get out now while you still have options.

I’ll bet you a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts that if you cut your losses now and make room for someone who’s worth your time and energy, you’ll one day thank your lucky stars that your prayers were never answered. Take one step today and two steps tomorrow. You’ll be running before you know it, wind in your hair, sun on your back, finding your way to the corner of Freedom & Happiness! Good fun and good friends will be waiting for you when you get there. Self-love is mandatory in your life right now. I recommend two doses first thing every morning.


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.

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.