Dear Margo: In May of ’83, when I was 18 and my brothers were 16 and 14, my mother died after a struggle with brain cancer. By July, my father had disposed of all her things, and by September, he had a girlfriend (14 years younger) and was spending all of his free time at her house instead of with my brothers. By Christmas, he had scheduled a wedding for July of ’84 and made plans to sell our house because his girlfriend was uncomfortable knowing our mother had lived there. When my middle brother and I objected to how quickly things were changing, Dad insisted that his happiness was the only thing that counted.
He got married, moved to the neighborhood his wife chose, and forbade us to talk about our mother. I was not allowed to live at the new house during summer vacations from college or to move home even briefly after graduating. I was treated as though my unhappiness with the situation was that of an immature troublemaker, not a grieving child. Since then, I’ve suffered from recurring depression.
I entered therapy and now am much better, except for one thing: I truly hate my father and his wife for the way they treated us, and I hate that my father managed to replace my mother so quickly and then tried to erase her existence. It’s the most honest emotion I’ve had in the past quarter-century. I want to say, “Bleep you and get out of my life.” However, my father will soon be 80, and I wonder if it would be cruel to tell him how I feel and kinder just to keep avoiding him. This situation is making me ill, but I just can’t figure out what to do. –Tied Up in Old Knots
Dear Tied: It is kind of you to consider leveling with your father as “cruelty,” but I invite you to consider his behavior from the time your mother died. I would, by all means, avoid him and what’s-her-name … who was likely behind his wish to erase your mother. And not letting the three of you speak of her — or come to what was your only home — is simply inexcusable. Along with your avoidance, I would write him (or them) a letter saying his behavior has been unconscionable and only now are you strong enough to consider yourself estranged from the two of them. As you can infer, I do not think age is a get-out-of-jail-free card. –Margo, appallingly
Cad in Camouflage
Dear Margo: I spent nine months waiting for a man to return from Iraq. He told me he was to be stationed in my hometown. When he got here to attend drill sergeant school, we spent as much time together as possible. The day before graduation in June, he told me he would rather go back to war than see me anymore — and this he did via text message. This man met my two boys and talked about marriage and having children with me. I found out via Facebook that he is married and now lives in Missouri. Please advise me on how to move on from the anger and resentment I feel toward him. –Madder than a Hornet
Dear Mad: Perhaps start with a punching bag. That guy sounds like a four-door louse. You don’t say whether he was married when all the romancing was going on, or if he found this woman and then made her his version of “going back to war.” And perhaps there’s no way for you to know. If he was, in fact, married when you struck up the band, then he was just entertaining himself, and you were the entertainment.
As for moving on, simply review the duplicity, the using, the dishonesty, treachery and lack of integrity, and understand that you dodged a bullet with the departure of this skunk. (And breaking it off via text was classy, too.) Realizing that you are one lucky girl to have been removed from this road show will just sharpen your judgment. Do not beat yourself up. This is one of those cases where it really is him and not you. –Margo, forwardly
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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