DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that the big brother of one of my childhood friends passed away. I remember seeing him last year when I was visiting home. On one hand, he looked the same, wearing the bright smile that was his signature. On the other, he looked weak. I didn't think much of it, as I hadn't seen him in more than 25 years.
I feel bad now that I didn't reach out to his sister to check to see how things were going. She and I see each other only occasionally. As close as we were as kids, time has created distance between us. We still like each other, though. She was the one who told me about his passing. What can I do to express my sorrow appropriately? -- Now He's Gone, Baltimore
DEAR NOW HE'S GONE: Stay in the moment. No need to dredge up the years that have passed or what you observed about her brother's fragility when you do talk to your friend. Instead, focus on the positive memories. Tell stories that reflect what you recall about him and his relationship with his sister. Ask her if you can do anything to support her during this time.
Make this a moment of reconnection. I'm sure she can use a friend right now. Death can have a positive impact in people's lives as it often brings friends back together.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a man in my 70s. I have seven grandchildren who all live close by, so I get to see them frequently. The summer is coming up, and my children rented a lake house that we will all visit.
One thing has been bothering me recently: I never learned to swim when I was younger, and haven't bothered to get lessons since, because I'm never in the position where I need to swim. That is, up until now. I want to be able to go in the lake this summer with my grandchildren. Is it too late to learn how to swim? I feel embarrassed about it. -- Grandpa Can't Swim, Boston
DEAR GRANDPA CAN'T SWIM: It's not too late to get a swim teacher and solidify the basics for the summer so that you feel comfortable and confident in the water. Go for that. It is smart for you and your family.
Beyond that, know that you can cheer on your grandchildren with all the enthusiasm in the world by standing on the edge of the pool or on the shore and taking great photos and videos.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a grandmother to five grandkids. I live close to them, so I get to see them quite often, which I love. As I get older, I am thinking about what I will leave them with when I pass away. I don't want to seem morbid or that I'm talking about the tragedy of death, but I do want to see what your take is on leaving this world with a great legacy. I want my grandkids to appreciate everything they have in life, work hard, and not take anything for granted. I hope my sons -- their parents -- have taught them well, but I want to make sure I leave them with some words of wisdom. Did you have a good relationship with your grandparents? What is the one thing you are grateful for that your grandparents gave you? -- Grandma's Legacy, Detroit
DEAR GRANDMA'S LEGACY: It's wonderful that you are thinking ahead about what you want your grandchildren to remember about you to enhance their lives.
I was very close to my maternal grandmother. More than the things that she gave me, I appreciated her wisdom. When she was in her 80s, she would sit cross-legged on the floor and play jacks with me. She had so much energy and love for me; I appreciated that then and now.
My grandmother was a domestic worker, and I remember one time scolding her and telling her to stop working. My family could take care of her, and she was already old. I said some mean things about her employer. She looked me in the eye and said, "Don't worry about me. I love my work, and I love the people I work for. When it comes time for you to work, you must love what you do and the people you work with." I never forgot that.
I recommend that you write notes to your grandchildren sharing your wisdom and specific guidance for each one of them. They will treasure those notes. Beyond that, show them how to live by your actions and the way you engage them.
DEAR HARRIETTE: At my job, I interact with a lot of customers and often must make small talk. However, one customer comes in and stays a little longer than my liking. He is very kind and polite, but he has been distracting me from my duties. Because he is a customer, I can't ignore him, but I have to take care of other customers as well.
He has hinted at us going out on a date, but I don't respond, hoping he won't ask again. Every week he asks me out, and I ignore him. The last couple of times he has asked, I said, "No, thank you" or "I'm not interested." He still asks, and it's getting frustrating that he isn't listening. How do I make it clear to him that I'm not interested so he'll stop asking me out? -- He Doesn't Understand "No," Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND "NO": First, report what is happening to your boss so that you have support when you tell this man that he is making you feel uncomfortable by constantly asking you out. Even though he is a customer, he doesn't have the right to badger you. Ask your boss to intervene if he refuses to back off. Ultimately, you will probably need your boss' support in order to get this man to stand down.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106