Dear Margo: Season's Greetings!

Margo Howard’s advice

Season’s Greetings!

Dear Margo: I hate Christmas. I mean, I really hate Christmas. It is all false bonhomie, buying, spending, too much drinking, uncomfortable family gatherings (for many), phony sentiment and a general pain. I find the whole deal an imposition. So I guess my question is: Is there anything I can do to opt out? — Scrooge

Dear Scroo: You clearly suffer from an advanced case of bah humbug. Of course, you are not the only one with unkind feelings about what has moved from an intended holy birthday party to a giftapalooza accompanied by turkey, ham and bourbon-spiked eggnog. To wit: Noel Coward’s annual greeting card always said the same thing: “Christmas is at our throats again.” And a woman I was very fond of never stopped referring to the weeks preceding Christmas as “all that ho-ho-ho crap.”

I would remind you, however, that for many it is a genuine time of reverence, good feelings and good cheer. To directly answer your question, you might lie low during the run-up to the actual day, make a date with a bunch of atheists for Christmas Day, or take a trip. Happy New Year. — Margo, pragmatically

Death and Disagreement

Dear Margo: From the date my sister “Helen” fell ill, in October 2011, until she died in January 2012, she had her family’s support with visits, calls and cards — with the exception of our father and half-brother. The whole family attended her funeral — with the exception again of our father and half-brother. They offered no explanation.

Five months later, our sister “Elaine” died of natural causes. She lived in the South and was not married, so by law our father was next of kin and responsible for arrangements. He refused to allow anyone else in the family to have a say. “She’s my daughter, and I’ll take care of it,” he stated. Then he denied the family any information, with the exception of his stepson, our half-brother. My father had our sister cremated and had her ashes mailed to his stepson, who then dumped them in his backyard. We learned of this after the fact, and our father denied knowing what happened to the ashes.

Why did this happen? We suspect it was a collaborative effort between our father’s third wife (20 years his junior) and our half-brother’s wife. They are only a few years apart in age and good friends, but they’re also controlling and spiteful. There are different theories as to what they were trying to achieve and whom they were trying to hurt, but we really don’t know. Why would our father turn his back on his own flesh and blood and allow his stepson to perform such a vile and hateful act? Is there a way to get answers and closure? — Gloomy

Dear Gloom: The situation you describe sounds like the Hatfields and the McCoys — only in this case you are all Hatfields. If you don’t know now, there is little hope of finding out what’s behind your father’s actions, so accept the fact that there will be no answers. Because the sisters are gone, I suggest you and the family members with whom you remain close simply write off your father and half-brother and stop torturing yourselves. I hope this will give you the small comfort of knowing that you pulled the plug on a destructive, dysfunctional relationship. — Margo, forwardly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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90 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Toni Jean says:

    LW2 – if you haven’t already, please make a will so this doesn’t happen if you pass. Same for any other living siblings. You can’t control the past but you can decide your future. So sorry for your losses.

    • avatar BeanCounter says:

      LW#2:   PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have a separate service for her.    Take a nice picture of her.   invite the people that missed out and cater some lunch or dinner.   inform the father and step-brother that your’e doing this, and tell them they’re NOT invited.  If they show up, escort them out.  

      And then get together and tell stories about her life and share your love of her!  Just because a couple of jerks tried to ruin this for you does NOT mean you can’t get together and mourn someone.   please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      And an Advanced Directive with a Living will & appoint a Health Care Rep, if you are not married or have adult children.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I do suggest you *make other plans* for the holiday.  Perhaps you can find kindred scrooges and set up an *anti-Christmas* celebration.  But then you would eat too much, drink too much, and be around people so better to just go sit on a hill on your own.  No one is forcing you to participate and perhaps those you know who do love the spirit and celebration of the day will be grateful for your absence.  Or, you can volunteer for some organization that provides meals or gifts to the needy.

    LW#2:  I doubt you will ever get the closure you want from your jerk relations.  I can only agree with Toni Jean’s response and extend my sympathies or your losses. 


  3. avatar LuckySeven says:

    I don’t like all the commercial hoopla over Christmas, either, but I also don’t feel the need to be a jerk about it. If you don’t like the way your Christmases are going, stop complaining and give them a makeover. Stop hanging out with people who drink too much (we do exist, I swear); stop eating things you don’t want to eat; pare down your gift list (mine includes immediate family and two very close friends only; that’s six people). find things to do that make you happy. I love getting an extra couple of days off–it gives me time to stay home and work on my hobbies (none of which have anything to do with Christmas).

    If you’re not part of your own solution, then you’re part of your own problem. Stop kvetching and find your own joy in the season.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Well put. Some people make lemonade out of lemons and others forget to add any sugar. Christmas is what you make of it—whether it’s a special occasion or just another day. I get the feeling that the “false bonhomie” is directed at others and LW1 is feeling a little out of sorts and jealous.

      And with that, I’m going shopping. I don’t have a tree, just moved to a big city and don’t know anyone. I’ll be alone most likely during Christmas Day. But I have Netflix, and I like looking at the lights and decorations and being around the crowds of people.

      LW2: Forget these guys and move on. And make sure the rest of you have advance directives so you avoid scenarios like these in the future. While you have my empathy (because something similar happened to my grandmother), this is what’s known as “poor planning.”

      • avatar lebucher says:

        Well put, David!  And in spite of being alone in a big city, I hope you enjoy your holidays.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        Excellent comment David and I hope you enjoy your holiday as much as I enjoy your comments. Cheers!

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        We take trips. But I do love the lights and decorations, just not the family drama. This year I got a delightfully kitschy prelit palm tree, it doesn’t even try to be real. Everyone thinks it awesome. And I found a blue poinsettia :-O

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You could check yourself into a hospital. Blood draws and vital signs checks at all hours of the night might be your thing instead? ;-p And screaming kids/grandkids of the person next-bed-over. And if anyone tries “the holiday spirit” on you, ask for an enema?
    L #2:  I agree wholeheartedly with Margo. Sad to say, it seems your father is pu**y-struck with the younger miss (Little Ms. Spiteful is going to get her way); he’s controlled by her and lust. I’d keep them as far distant as possible. And you’ve every right to grieve over how your sisters were treated in death. Inexcusable. 🙁

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Sadly, as a health care professional, I can tell you many lonely souls present to the hospital with some illness so they can spend the holidays with someone rather than alone. Then there are those who get admitted Christmas Day because their family finally made it over to see what poor shape they are in.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

    No truer words were ever spoken. This letter writer may (in how they give their take of events) be accurate. The actions of this dad and son are disturbing, but as Margo pointed out, there comes a time when you need to – with surgical precision – cut and slice these people from your life and just move on. The sisters are dead, and someday the letter writer will be as well. And when this happens no matter how much we try to prepare for it with wills, insurance and detailed notes for what you want after your death, people tend to ignore all of that. It’s easier to fuss and fight about WHAT to do with a loved one’s dead body than it is to deal with the fact that THEY are gone.

    Letter #1 – I’m going to go out on a limb and say this person is not a Christian. So this must be a non-believer complaining about the swirl of Christmas activity around her/him. Well, lets get political and blunt for a moment….shall we?

    I am constantly debating with people that claim America IS NOT a Christian nation. I offer up the proof that In God We Trust is on the money we carry in our pockets. There are references to God and Christ on almost every state and federal building in America. Commercials, marketing and a flurry abounds over the Easter and Christmas holidays. All across the nation people put up decorations, plan parties and buy and give presents with those holidays in mind. Do we collectively as a nation celebrate and speak of ALL the other religions out there? No, we do not. So that should tell you something about Christianity. Because there are more people in America that are Christians AND we are predominantly a Christian nation, what annoys you now – takes place.

    So now for the blunt part. To this letter writer I would say……deal with it. There will always be holidays that take over our American lives that some are not going to agree with, and that falls under the category of “Oh well” True Christians, even in the midst of all the superficial aspects of shopping, eating, socializing and such….true Christians always remember “The reason for the season” and it is NOT rooted in all those things. It is about the celebration of Christ. It is our religious beliefs and anyone that is like you that finds the aspects of that celebration annoying needs to simply deal with it.

    I know people that hate war and therefore despise Memorial Day. I know people that are anti-government and therefore hate the 4th of July. I know people that view Halloween as being a holiday that celebrates evil and demonic beliefs.

    So I say to this letter writer continue to be a Scrooge. Be annoyed by the pervasive celebration of one of America’s most popular and sacred holidays. Short of going into hiding, unplugging the TV, radio and avoiding all newspapers and magazines, you will have to have your senses overwhelmed by a religion that is at the core of a nation YOU CHOOSE to live in. Deal with it.

    • avatar tj goldstein says:

      Just because he doesn’t like Xmas doesn’t mean he isn’t a ‘Christian’? He could be like me and just hate all the commercialism of the so called holiday? Personally, I think Xmas is a disgusting time of the year.. the sheer amount of money spent on useless crap makes me sick to the stomach, not to mention pressure to succumb to what is portrayed as being a perfect day with the family.


      As for it being Christs birthday? Sure. Right. Osiris.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        “As for it being Christs birthday? Sure. Right. Osiris.”

        Well NEWSFLASH, Christmas IS a religious holiday and based on what you have posted I can tell you didn’t read what I posted. You skimmed through it.

        • avatar tj goldstein says:

          Supposedly religious.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            tj “goldstein” – Do your homework, Christmas is indeed a religious holiday.

          • avatar tj goldstein says:

            Wow! I’m not actually Jewish… i just chose this username for my favorite actress – jeanette Goldstein from aliens fame. Nice to see your so called Christian morals are working 🙂

        • avatar Hellster says:

          Belinda Joy, I suggest that if you want people to read your posts that you should make them more succinct.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            Hellster, Whether my post is long or short, before anyone responds to what someone has written, it is customary to READ what is written first. What part of that don’t you understand?

        • avatar R Scott says:

          Well ANOTHER NEWSFLASH – Christmas is a religious holiday only if you decide it is. I love Christmas and put no religious meaning to it at all and only call it “Christmas” becuase it’s just easier. And by the way, we all just skim through your posts. Maybe you could bullet point them or something.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            R Scott, I suggest you and any others that have a problem with the length of my post, simply avoid reading them. It is very simple, you see Belinda Joy and scroll past it. Why is that so difficult for you?

          • avatar R Scott says:

            Oh not a problem. I usually do. This one just caught my eye as I was skimming over it. Then your NEWSFLASH in all caps was, of course an eye catcher. Carry on.

        • avatar Miss Macy says:

          Walk into any church on Christmas Day and you won’t recognized 95% of the people sitting in the pews because they only show up for the annual pageantry. Christmas as a “sacred” holiday is a joke. Jesus wasn’t born at the winter solstice; he was born in the spring.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            Miss Macy, There was a time when the people that blogged on WOWOWOW were savvy, educated and informed about subjects discussed. I see those days are gone. Your post (IMO) sounds ignorant. Do some research before you post comments. You have NO understanding of Christmas and its origin.

          • avatar blueelm says:

            You mean it’s origin in Greek mythology and the placement of Jesus’s birthday inaccurately during the winter solstice just when the Roman’s happened to already have a slot for it?

            Actually, there’s no good evidence for the existence of Jesus at all but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that.

            Macy doesn’t sound any more ignorant than you do.

          • avatar R Scott says:

            Belinda – You may want to do some research around the origins of Yule and how it was usurped to celebrate the birth or your Christ. Of course you’ll have to get yourself out of your sanctimonious head space and maybe do some secular reading. Give it a shot. It won’t hurt you and you may learn something. Miss Macy’s post was not ignorant at all. Yours however opens the door for discussion of blind ignorance.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            Miss Macy is correct. Christmas has become a bunch of hooey. I was despairing today at the fact the the whole Santa thing is a slam on Christianity. We teach our children to believe & have faith that there is this man who is immortal, watches us for good & bad deeds, is never seen & can perform miracles. Wait, read that again. Am I talking about Jesus or Santa!?! Then they discover they were being duped. Parents & other grown up were exploiting their child like imagination or lack of knowledge. Then Christians expect that these same children will continue to believe in & have faith in Christ. Once bitten, twice shy, my friend. It’s almost as if this whole Santa thing is a evil plot to discredit Christianity. While we know that St. Nicholas’ story has simply has spun out of control & been capitalized by merchants, it will continue down this path until when…
            Miss Macy, in some churches have dubbed these members CEOs (Christmas, Easter & Other big events like baptisms, weddings & funeral).

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Where are the references to Christ on almost every federal and state building? I would be interested to know since that would violate the Establishment clause. Don’t you remember the big hullaballoo about the Ten Commandments at a state Supreme Court house that was ordered to be removed by a federal judge with the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court refusing.

      Also, in God we Trust does not necessarily refer to a Christian God. I think you have many of your facts wrong.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        “I think you have many of your facts wrong.” Shocking isn’t it?   🙂

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        OMG this is scary! Seriously?

        What is with you people! For the love of God people, move away from the WOWOWOW site for a few minutes, look up some of our federal government sites and educate yourselves about our currency, the origin of In God We Trust, and all of the other aspects of why God appears on our buildings, courthouses, currency AND why every president ends a national speech with “And May God Bless the United States.

        There is a reason they don’t say Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Allah etc. etc. etc. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          “In God We Trust”

          …the 84th Congress (1956) passed a joint resolution to replace the existing motto with “In God we trust”. The change was partly motivated by a desire to differentiate between communism, which promotes atheism, and Western capitalistic democracies, which were at least nominally Christian.

          “…under God”

          The phrase “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

          “May God bless the United States of America.”

          On April 30, 1973, Richard Nixon addressed the nation from the Oval Office to try to manage the growing Watergate scandal. It was a difficult speech for Nixon, not only because of the times, but also because he had to announce the resignation of his Attorney General. He tried to make his words as uplifting as possible:

          Towards the end Nixon noted that he had 1,361 days remaining in his term and wanted them to be the best days in America’s history. “Tonight,” he said, “I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the days of my presidency.”

          Then he added “God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.”

          But it ended there. Neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter continued the practice. However Ronald Reagan, for eight years, ended all his speeches with “God Bless America” and every president since has followed suit.

          “Freedom of Religion in the United States”

          In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson.

          So basically, everything you’ve referenced has had roots in politics. And most of it has only happened in the latter half of the 20th century. Again—the US is not a Christian nation, nor has it ever been a Christian nation. It is a nation that allows for freedom of religion, including Christianity—which happens to be the religion of most of its citizens. That said, there are many, many divergent “flavors” of Christianity—to the point where reaching a consensus and adopting a state religion, such as the Church of England, would be a virtual impossibility in the US.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      While it is true that the nation in 75% Christian, it is also 75% white.

      Does that make it a white nation with white laws for white people only and the rest of you just deal with it?

      I’d like to think not….

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        Sadie BB. Your stupid is showing.

        • avatar Sadie BB says:

          Belinda sweetie, post THEN drink. Works better that way.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Belinda, calling the posts of others “delusional” because you don’t agree is rather antithetical to your stance on Christianity and the season of Christmas—which we are currently in. Not everyone is going to agree with your stance or your opinions about the meaning of Christmas, the origins of Christmas, or the importance of Christmas. This reminds me of the strange need that some people have to hear the clerk at Target say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” as though some stranger’s words will validate what you should feel inside your heart anyway—if that’s what you believe and choose to celebrate.

          • avatar R Scott says:

            Belinda – Please stop your ad hominem attacks on posters who don’t agree with you. It’s okay. It’s a discussion board. We can disagree. You are way too invested in this space. It’s been fun but really. Step back and take a breath. You’re not helping your “cause” and actually, this is Margo Howard’s column not yours. When your column inches exceed hers you need to take a breath. Happy Holidays to you.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            “When your column inches exceed hers you need to take a breath.”

            Me-ouch. (hiss)

          • avatar bleeble says:

            What this “logic” and “reason” you’re trying to use here? I don’t know if that’s allowed in a classic BJ comment thread.

          • avatar Toni Jean says:

            R Scott fabulous!! BJ is the new briana. Stop looking for validation here and sprinkling anger and judgement when you don’t get it. Respect is received when it’s given. She sounds like she wants an oompah oomph NOW!

    • avatar flaemmchen says:

      There is a significant difference being a nation with a majority of its population being Christians and a “Christian Nation”. It should be recalled that many early settlers came here to escape religious persecution and that while some of the founding fathers held deep religious beliefs they specifically set up the constitution in a way that did not ram those convictions down the throats of others. Oh that pesky first amendment separation of church and state thing (which lets clarify had the intention that the government would not sponsor one religion over another). I don’t like your premise that if you hold other beliefs than those of Christianity that you need to suck it up, that somehow you don’t truly belong unless you agree with those beliefs. In anticipation of your response to this, I’ll say “You’re right, you didn’t actually say that, but it is implied.”

      Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way. I don’t understand why its so difficult to acknowledge the vast amount of research that confirms that Jesus was not in fact, born on December 25th (and this is putting aside the whole switch to the Gregorian Calendar thing) but over the course of hundreds of years it became tradition to celebrate it now given that throughout history various cultures and celebrations have had festivities around the time of the winter solstice. Ceding that point would hardly make you less of a Christian. It would actually demonstrate that you are MORE well versed in biblical studies.

      Finally as a Jewish person, I find your passive aggressive and personal attack on tj goldstein personally offensive. Writing the goldstein in quotation marks was pretty clearly an anti-semetic dig. It is especially hypocritical given that the man you worship was . . . wait for the punch line . . . Jewish.      

      • avatar tj goldstein says:

        Lol!! Thanks for the support but the joke is on her actually as I’m not even Jewish! Really just like the name.

    • avatar blueelm says:

      Yes. The majority in power should always wield power over minorities! To hell with freedom! Now worship my God!

    • avatar Southerngyrl says:

      Wow… okay. So, I didn’t realize so many people did not realize (or just trying to be contrary) that Christmas started as a religious holiday. Regardless of which traditions are based in pagan or greek histories, this is actually the case. I mean, I am not religious and even I know this.

      It just seems like some of you don’t like the commenter and decided to place your on biases when you replied. Sad.

      • avatar Southerngyrl says:

        Yep, continued reading. I definitely sense some petty behavior on this board. The funny thing is, being religious doesn’t make you right. Being non-religious doesn’t make you right either.

        You all acted like children on this board. Guess I have to lower my expectations for the Dear Margo comments sections just like I did for the Dear Abby ones. SMH

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I thought this was an interesting article.

        From Yahoo’s “5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”

        1. 1. Early Christians had a soft spot for pagans
        It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas traditions come directly from pre-Christian paganism, said Ronald Hutton, a historian at Bristol University in the United Kingdom. However, he said, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.

        This is how we got such things as the Christmas Tree.

        2. We all want that warm Christmas glow

        But why this fixation on partying in midwinter, anyway? According to historians, it’s a natural time for a feast. In an agricultural society, the harvest work is done for the year, and there’s nothing left to be done in the fields.
        “It’s a time when you have some time to devote to your religious life,” said Shaw. “But also it’s a period when, frankly, everyone needs cheering up.”
        The dark days that culminate with the shortest day of the year ­— the winter solstice — could be lightened with feasts and decorations, Hutton said.

        3. The Church was slow to embrace Christmas

        Despite the spread of Christianity, midwinter festivals did not become Christmas for hundreds of years. The Bible gives no reference to when Jesus was born, which wasn’t a problem for early Christians, Nissenbaum said.
        “It never occurred to them that they needed to celebrate his birthday,” he said.
        With no Biblical directive to do so and no mention in the Gospels of the correct date, it wasn’t until the fourth century that church leaders in Rome embraced the holiday. At this time, Nissenbaum said, many people had turned to a belief the Church found heretical: That Jesus had never existed as a man, but as a sort of spiritual entity.

        4. The Puritans hated the holiday

        But if the Catholic Church gradually came to embrace Christmas, the Protestant Reformation gave the holiday a good knock on the chin. In the 16th century, Christmas became a casualty of this church schism, with reformist-minded Protestants considering it little better than paganism, Nissenbaum said. This likely had something to do with the “raucous, rowdy and sometimes bawdy fashion” in which Christmas was celebrated, he added.
        In England under Oliver Cromwell, Christmas and other saints’ days were banned, and in New England it was illegal to celebrate Christmas for about 25 years in the 1600s, Nissenbaum said. Forget people saying, “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” he said.

        “If you want to look at a real ‘War on Christmas,’ you’ve got to look at the Puritans,” he said. “They banned it!”

        5. Gifts are a new (and surprisingly controversial) tradition

        While gift-giving may seem inextricably tied to Christmas, it used to be that people looked forward to opening presents on New Year’s Day.

        “They were a blessing for people to make them feel good as the year ends,” Hutton said. It wasn’t until the Victorian era of the 1800s that gift-giving shifted to Christmas. According to the Royal Collection, Queen Victoria’s children got Christmas Eve gifts in 1850, including a sword and armor. In 1841, Victoria gave her husband, Prince Albert, a miniature portrait of her as a 7-year-old; in 1859, she gave him a book of poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

  6. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW2) My condolences on loss of your sisters, Helen and Elaine. For openers, you and all your relatives need to update their wills, trusts, and other final instructions to make sure your father, his wife, and step-son don’t get their clutches on anyone else you love. Step two: Cut those pieces of tripe out of your lives. Despite what’s happened with your siblings, odds are the old man will be the next to go. Don’t shed a tear at his departure. In fact, try to arrange it so you won’t even know when he goes. If notiified, don’t acknowlege to the ingrates that you received word of his death. Instead, have a gathering among your loved ones to celebrate that he’s a goner. If his wife and step-son go first, let him suffer alone. Finally, when you see a sunrise or something else that’s lovely, think of Helen and Elaine.   

  7. avatar mac13 says:

    LW2. Does it bother anyone else that the LW says her father has a stepson that is her half brother? I don’t understand how that would happen. It gives me the feeling that maybe the facts are being embellished. Leaves me wondering…

    • avatar martina says:

      Could be 1/2 brother is the product of LW2’s mother’s first marriage and father of LW2 is the second husband making the 1/2 brother a stepson.

      • avatar mac13 says:

        Yeah, the genetics are there I guess. But something still sticks in my craw. “Why would our father turn his back on his own flesh and blood and allow his stepson to perform such a vile and hateful act?” The writer (she?) here refers to her half brother as her father’s stepson. I mean the father gave the ashes of the deceased woman to her half brother. The probable oldest sibling. Shouldn’t most of the LW’s anger be directed toward her half brother as to the disposal of the ashes? I’m not minimizing her grief, but there must be a lot more behind the scenes that being told.

        • avatar JCF4612 says:

          That sort of thing can happen. A friend ‘s old man with children married his stepdaughter, so relationships are complicated.  

    • avatar mayma says:

      Oh, I definitely sensed missing facts in L2. Dad refused to share any information whatsoever on Elaine’s services, and yet LW2 discovers what happened with the ashes? And of course the real culprits are those two man-trapping hussy-wives. (It’s always a “controlling, spiteful” woman’s fault if there are shenanigans at play.) We’ve all been stewing in the bitter broth, but maybe Margo can throw us another bone — I mean, “theory” — to prolong the drama. Oy.

    • avatar Hellster says:

      I was troubled by that as well. How could that happen. I have a stepson whose mother is not me, and whose father is my husband. That is the way I understand step-childhood and step-parenthood to work.

      I also have a step-grandson whose mother is also the mother of my three granddaughters, and whose stepfather is my son. My stepson is the half-brother of the daughters who share half their DNA with him as they all have the same mother.

      It makes it much easier that we all consider ourselves family, and bound by bonds of humanity and love. All the “half” and “step” designations are useful legal constructs, but I don’t refer to my children or grandchildren as full, half, step, or whatever. I love them all. (It helps that they are all very loveable.)

      • avatar wendykh says:

        I understand this as someone who really despises the term Half-Sibling in particular… but a friend of mine explained it to me very well, that for her, the siblings her father had with his second wife just are *not* siblings to her. For one thing they’ve maybe met a handful of times, and they’re 30 years younger. They feel more like distant relation. So to call them a sister, to her, is offensive to the bond she has with her “actual sister” that she grew up with and is 2 years younger than her. I understood a bit more then, and I think it’s in how her dad handled things more than anything. I have a similar family construct, but my dad always treated us all like his kids so it felt more natural.

        On the other hand…. it drives me up a wall when my stepmom introduces me as her daughter. I don’t correct her on it because I don’t like to be a scene maker and I know she’s not trying to erase my mom or anything and I know she’s doing it just to mess with people since we’re only 12 years apart in age. And she clarifies after. But she’s my dad’s 3rd wife and his 2nd wife DID try to erase my mom, going so far as adopting me even (no my mother did NOT consent, she was dead). I haven’t spoken to the interloper in over two decades. So I’m a bit protective of that “step” designation and I like it very much, even if there have been times in the last 20 years where the only reason I talked to my dad was because I liked my stepmom so much. It’s not a slam on her to call her a stepmom; it’s simply who she is.

    • avatar Hellster says:

      You know what else bothers me? Helen and Elaine are the same name. Or two variants of the same name.

      • avatar Kriss says:

        so are Charles & Carl & I know a family that has 2 sons w/ those names.

        • avatar butterfly55 says:

          Yep, I knew a Bob who had a brother Robert, you never know about families.

          • avatar Hellster says:

            I also had a cousin who was named Eileen Helen. Her father was a lovely man, but a tremendous alcoholic, and it was he who had the job of going down to the Registrar’s office to register the birth. He was too blootered to realize what he was doing.

          • avatar The Wild Sow says:

            Aha, Hellster caught that too! That’s like naming your sons John and Sean. We do know a pair of twins named Monica and Monique!

            Well, presumably the LW made up the names, as in “Helen” (not her real name)…!

  8. avatar Nonny Mouse says:

    The holidays at this time of year are, at their core, about taking the darkest time of year and celebrating light and life, family, giving, caring, and community. This is a universal human experience that does not belong to any one religion, nor even to religion.

    If these things do not speak to someone, yes take a trip and avoid it all. Or maybe find a way to celebrate that does speak to you.

    I’m an atheist (pagan) and I LOVE Christmas (Yule). It’s very easy to celebrate in a secular way, which I am shocked to see so few people realize. Maybe it’s religious to religious people, but non-religious people love their families too, and warmth and light and fun and giving.

    I think the world would be a nicer place if we realized we all have more in common than we have differences, and everyone please stop getting in a snit about what other people believe and experience.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Well you’re just going to hell.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      Nonny Mouse – Thank you so much for this reasoned response. Your gift to me – I dont’ have to type anything now. You did it for me. Thanks and Happy Holidays to you.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      I agree.
      Also it drives me insane when my super More Catholic Than Pope (she’s a recent convert) friend gets all in a snit about how DARE other people celebrate and give gifts on Christmas when they are not believers and call it tradition?! Why don’t they just find some other day?! I’m like who are you to tell people what/when/how to celebrate and further that’s not even Christ’s birthday to begin with and are you seriously peeved people are getting together and having fun with families since they aren’t believers? That makes no sense. I mean if they were getting together and having incest orgies to celebrate Christmas, okay, I’d maybe see her point but I’m relatively certain if God exists he’s got “people eating and celebrating and being nice to one another on Christmas despite not believing Christ is my son” at the bottom of his hit list, if there at all!

    • avatar Toni Jean says:

      Love this Nonny! Christian and Wiccan and agree!!!

  9. avatar Ange says:

    LW#2  I am so sorry for your loss.  I work at a church, and wanted you to know that you can hold a memorial service for your sister without her body and without the ashes.  We often do this for people, sometimes even months after the death has occurred.  You don’t need to contact a funeral home; you can inquire at local churches if you want to do something like this.  It might give the rest of your family a sense of healing and closure.

  10. avatar mayma says:

    Good grief, LW1. No one is forcing anything on you. I don’t participate in one minute of false bonhomie or phony sentiment. I buy and spend next to nothing. I don’t drink, and I don’t hang around with people uncomfortably. Yet, it’s a super-relaxing, enjoyable and fun time of year for me.

    Why in the world do you think you are not in control of your own life? Better question: why are you blaming everyone else for your own wrong thinking? Instead of trying to carpet the world, put on slippers.

    • avatar The Wild Sow says:

      How do we know? Does LW1 say he/she lives alone? They may have a spouse, partner, family, etc., who loves the season, the decorating, the music, all that, and LW is unable to get away from it.

      Carolyn Hax had the flip side recently — wife who loves Christmas married to an otherwise delightful man who actively hates it. One of the comments was that they’re both going to be out in the world during the season — she can get her Christmas Tree fix by going to the mall, the town square, a friend’s house — he can only get away from it by staying home.

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – This whole situation, including the LW herself just seems odd. Real odd….I’d love to hear the other 4 sides to this triangle. Bottom line: who knows why they did it. Ask them. In the meantime have a memorial service anytime or place you want. 

  12. avatar K Coldiron says:

    LW1: I’m in your corner. Stay strong and bear down. January 2 is getting nearer all the time.

  13. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    I’ve had a few drinks these evening… celebrating at a work do (sorry LW1) so I might be missing something but how is her father’s step-son her half-brother?

  14. avatar blueelm says:

    ” bunch of atheists for Christmas Day”

    Nah! Most of us like to party and don’t care enough about your holiday to get mopey. I find it’s the disappointed Christians who tend to be the most bitter.

    Well, happy holidays anyway. If it wasn’t Christmas it’d be something else so let’s drink and be merry.

  15. avatar impska says:

    LW2: Unless your step mother and SIL are voodoo priestesses and your father and half-brother are zombies, then these women did not have the power to control any of this.

    Your father is responsible for his own actions. He is responsible for his absence from one funeral. He is responsible for cremating your sister, sending the ashes to his stepson and then lying to you about it all.

    If your family members married evil women, then it is probably because they are evil men.

    There is no mind control here – lay the blame where it belongs.

  16. avatar Sheri Dedmon says:

    Shame on you guys blasting LW1 for not immediately celebrating the holiday and finding it a drag. Anybody else think that the writer could be depressed? Or have other mental issues at play? I’m Pagan and don’t believe in the holiday as being the Christian one and despise the commercialism that has overtaken the holiday and made it all about gluttony and greed (hmm, two of the 7 Deadly Sins… go figure). Before you judge (hm, is there not a lil dirty about judge not and ye shall not be judged in these same by-laws??) the LW, look at why they feel the way they do, examine other possibilities and accept that not everybody wants too/can just “deal with it” (and that person can stick their partridge in a pear tree up their you know what– how do you like that blunt?). To the LW, I advise seeking treatment if there is a potential organic/environmental cause behind your antipathy to the Holidays. I also think taking a trip or finding other ventures to occupy yourself would do a world of good. Not everybody has to be a Ho Ho Ho-er but only you can change being a grinch/Scrooge (which by the tone of the letter and inference to be made, I assume you would like to do/or to find a better way to get through what is obviously a bad period for you). I look at the holidays as they were intended to be looked at– a time of family and togetherness, of cleansing the home and the Earth of the old to make way for the new come the spring.

  17. avatar francophile1962 says:

    Ohhh, myyyy, isn’t everyone’s “holiday spirit” just shining in this string of posts today!

  18. avatar R Scott says:

    I would like to apologize for my part in the snarky, snippy “conversation” up above. I let myself get a little to involved and got kind of nasty.

    Okay, it was really kind of fun…but still….  I’ll do better.

  19. avatar jennaA says:

    LW1: One can’t blame you. My family has always chosen either Thanksgiving or Christmas to stir up trouble making this season rather miserable. This year, unfortunately, is no different. Next year I will be booking a cruise to somewhere far, far away and plan to make it a tradition to avoid the drama.

    LW2: People get “weird” when relatives pass on. My uncle, for instance, held all my grandmother’s photographs hostage and refused to speak to any of us for about two years. Part of me is wondering if Dad felt powerless with the first sister’s passing and wasn’t dealing well… then, when second sister passed, he finally had a sense of being in control (being in charge of arrangements) but didn’t handle it correctly in his grief. Just a thought. Hoping this family can reconcile and be civil before anyone else is gone and it’s too late.  

  20. avatar fallinginplace says:

    LW#1 – I sympathize.  Christmas is not a holiday for me but I am still subjected to the rampant commercialism, traffic, stress, etc. that the holiday brings to everyone in the society, whether we celebrate Christmas or not.  I wish others well in whatever celebrations they choose but also wish that their holiday didn’t impose so significantly on my life.  Mostly I just hold my breath and hang on until January.

  21. avatar Eazy Duzit says:

    To LW1, wow, you sound like a pill.  Have never understood people who can’t handle Christmas or don’t like it to that extent.  I agree the pressure to buy gifts and all that can be a bit too much, but if you keep it simple and boil the holiday down to the celebration of an exceptional person’s birth – one who we could all do well to try and emulate by the way, whether we are believers or not – then it can be a wonderful and joyous time for you too, like it is for the rest of us.  If you find that it really is too much of an imposition for you, then I would encourage you to take trips abroad during this time of the year or long cruises.

  22. avatar LucyB says:

    LW 2, I’m stuck trying to figure out how your father’s stepson can be your half-brother. Which parent do you have in common with this guy? You can’t have the same father, or he wouldn’t be your father’s STEPson. So did you have the same mother? Did your mother have him, then marry your father and have you and your sisters? What’s the background here?

  23. avatar leah black says:

    LW 1- Start celebrating Hanukkah

    LW2- This is why, G-d forbid, I ever get divorced or become a widow why I am still young enough to think about getting married again or even dating- it will never be with a man who has kids, sorry. I know there are many happy and successful blended families with step and half siblings, but I personally have yet to see one. It opens the door to crap like this. You have my sympathy.

  24. avatar Lila says:

    Theory on stepson / half-brother: he is the mother’s eldest, from a previous relationship. Then she married hateful-dad, making that first child hateful-dad’s stepson, and the half-brother of the several kids born later. Then the parents divorce but for whatever reason, hateful-dad remains close to the first child, who everyone is still referring to as his “stepson.”

    That’s the only way I can figure it…

  25. avatar Lym BO says:

    WeIl have only one question. Where is Lisa Kitty & Briana?
    Happy Holidays to all! (And when I say that that apply it to whatever beliefs & celebrations you have this cold December. I’m not demeaning your religion or mine. People are so sensitive & pot stirrers. I sincerely offer this sentiment that I hope your week is happy & not filled with grief. Just be glad you still have loved ones to have & hold because many don’t this year. 🙁 ).