Ask Amy: Returning a 40-year-old gift can be tricky

September 17, 2013 

Dear Amy: When I was in my 20s, I was in a loving and devoted relationship with a woman for five years. After several bad episodes, she ended it.

Four decades later, I still value the quality of the affection we shared and the lessons that I learned. That relationship has shaped much of the way I choose to live today. While I truly have no lingering desire for her, I am deeply appreciative of her influence in my life. We have gone our separate and successfully married ways. I am a thousand miles away and completely "over her."

During our relationship, she made me a gift. It is a beautiful, finely knit sweater, which took her many hours of effort. I have kept it in excellent condition for all these years.

I have a desire to return it to her with no messages attached. I want no response for this gesture. For me, this is just to say an (unspoken) thanks for all that she gave me all those years ago.

Is this unwise? Could this look like an attempt at a rapprochement, or would this gesture anger her? Should I give the sweater to her brother and let him decide what to do with it?

— Grateful for the gifts

Dear Grateful: If you received a package containing a (possibly forgotten) gift you had given to someone more than 40 years ago, with no message attached, you would probably go a little bit bonkers trying to attach meaning to it. Is it your intent to drive this woman crazy?

Your gesture could come off as weirdly mysterious, rapprochementlike or even hostile.

Why not be more straightforward, not to prompt an answer but to make your intention very clear? Like this:

"Dear Chelsea, I hope you remember this sweater. As you can see, I've taken good care of it. Perhaps you have someone in your life who likes vintage things to whom you could give this handmade gift from your (and my) youth. I've enclosed a photo of my family; that's my spouse, Diana, our kids and our dog, Tippy. I hope your life is as happy as mine is and wish you all the best."

Dear Amy: "Unsure" did nothing when his wife told him their mutual friend "Jasper" had really hit on her. You suggested that he should confront the cad, even though the wife didn't want him to. I felt this wife took care of the matter on her own and didn't need rescuing.

— Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: I counseled "Unsure" to stand up for his relationship, but many readers agreed with you.


You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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