Dear Margo: Some Father

Should I cut my dad out of my life? Margo Howard’s advice

Some Father

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 Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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74 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Jim Martin says:

    Dear Margo, appalledly:
    Here I am being picky as usual, but it disturbed me greatly to see you refer to your excellent and irreplaceable self as appalling. I know what you meant was that you were appalled by the father’s despicable behavior toward his children, so I have taken it upon myself to coin the word appalledly for you to use instead. Although appalledly does turn up in Google searches, and it certainly should be a word, I cannot find it in any online dictionary.
    I love your line, “I do not think age is a get-out-of-jail-free card.” I will be 63 next month, and while I know some would consider me a spring chicken still (that term alone proves my age), the older I get the less tolerant I am of old people who think they can get away with bad behavior just because they’re closer to the grave than their victims are.
    Your grateful and admiring friend, hoping you live to be well over 120 and stay vibrant and brilliant to the very end,

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      “…the older I get the less tolerant I am of old people who think they can get away with bad behavior just because they’re closer to the grave than their victims are.”

      I’m 45, and have felt that way since age 25. Some people really do use their “Golden Arches Card” like a weapon. 🙁

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Well, thanks, Jim! (And those adverbial sign-offs are sometimes tricky.)

  2. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I don’t know if it’d be cruel; if you really feel the need to “let him have it” and that would help in the healing process, go for it. Sometimes the truth is exactly what people need to hear; especially very selfish jerks. And your brothers, how have they handled this? They were even more directly effected by it than you, as they were younger and still at home. At the very least you can continue avoiding him and whats’ername. You’re my age btw; you’re (understandably) carrying this baggage for a while now. Again, if telling him off helps YOU — do it. Because he does owe you that gratification at least!

    • avatar Sweet Dream says:

      Agreed 100%. Also since you brought up the subject of LW#1’s brothers, my advise is please, please, please reach out to them. You’ll feel better knowing that you help them cope. I think the key to ease depression is by getting out there and help others, because that means theat you focus less on your own problems.

  3. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Try to forget him ASAP. I’m sorry for how this likely impacted your sons as well. And if you’re considering contacting his wife (she has my pity) for revenge…I wouldn’t. As my dad would say, sometimes you’ve got to swallow your pride. Stinks I know, but…try to move forward now and best of luck with a future (good and rewarding) romance. Some terrific guy is out there waiting to meet you!

  4. avatar Anais P says:

    I’m sorry, but any father who practically abandons his daughter after she leaves for college and forbids his children to discuss their dead mother is about the most selfish man I have ever heard of. Never mind that it was probably very tough on him to have nursed his wife through a lengthy illness. His first responsibility was to his children, not to himself, and he only considered his own wants and needs, not theirs. I have no pity for him but only for the children he so ill-treated. I agree completely with Margo’s wise words. If LW1 wishes to write a letter to clear the air and free herself of the depression her father’s actions helped create, I say go for it. He made his choices in 1983, now he has to live with the consequences.
    As for LW2, Margo is right: she should consider herself lucky to be rid of this jerk-creep-cad. It is really too bad he also gave your children reason to hope, but you are much, much better off without him. Don’t contact his wife, and don’t give him another thought unless it helps to punch your pillow a few dozen times each night while thinking of his miserable face. You are now a bit wiser when it comes to men. LW2, I wish you the very best.

  5. avatar K Coldiron says:

    One of the best sayings I’ve ever heard about the death of a spouse is “women grieve, men replace.” Still, LW1’s father behaved very, very badly to his children. Totally selfish.

  6. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 2: In the day and age of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines it makes sense to see if a prospective significant other has a past. This is especially true for those who meet someone online or through correspondence. Everyone should be alert to warning signs such as not being introduced the prospects friends and family or being gone on holidays or weekends. If your prospect is real he will take calls in front of you instead of stepping outside or letting them go to voice mail. Another red flag is getting stuck with most of the expense for the relationship. It won’t help the one you lost but it can help you and your children in the future. The best way to get over the resentment of being used is chalk what happened up to experience and move on.

  7. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2- This guy likely has a girl wherever he’s stationed.  I’m betting they met on the internet – he looking specifically for a girl in this particular town to .. ahem … spend time with.  Then, when his gig is up, he goes back to his family.  Yeah, he’s a louse but she’s naive.  With all the tools at our fingertips via the internet, how can anyone not know their boyfriend is married??

    • avatar Lila says:

      Unfortunately I have seen this all too often in the military.  The guys used to call this a “TDY Wife.”  (Temporary Duty)  Of course the “TDY Wife” never knows that the soldier is already married, or just flat has no intention of maintaining the relationship once his TDY assignment is over.
      In the old days it was much easier for these slimes to pull this stunt.  I agree with you – in the age of the internet, women should exercise a good bit of skepticism and their keyboards before letting a guy sweet-talk them into a relationship, and then dump them like a used kleenex at his convenience.

      • avatar Margy says:

        Several years ago, I knew this Japanese girl who had a boyfriend in the Marines. She paid for all their meals and outings whenever they went on a date. She was talking marriage and living in the states. When he went back to the states, she visited him and his family. His family welcomed her but he was not. Turns out he hooked back up with a former girlfriend. She didn’t feel like giving up and last I saw her, she was desperately thinking of ways to get him back.
        Nowadays with the internet available, who doesn’t do a search?

  8. avatar Lila says:

    For LW1 – your father’s behavior is really unconscionable.  I lost my mother at age 6, and my Dad never remarried.  He disposed of her clothing, but insisted that I should have her other things: jewelry, dressing table, etc.  Those things are of a bygone era now, but are still a treasured connection to her.  That your father denied you even this much is reprehensible; also that he denied his children their home, both the old one AND the new one!  Clearly he values his new wife over his three existing children.
    I’d say – ask yourself if, once he is gone, you will regret never airing your grievance with him.  If so – then do it.  Also consider that when you confront him, he may surprise you with his regrets.  Not that it would make anything right, just that it would show he was aware of his actions.

    • avatar Annalyn Stormraven says:

      Seriously, to make things right with his children the Dad shouldn’t remarry?  And YES you should value your spouse over your adult children.  I don’t get this attitude that your children are more important than the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with.  Children move out at 18.  You may still have a relationship, but it should not be near that same level as that you have with your spouse.

      • avatar Lila says:

        I said MY Dad never remarried, should have made clear that’s not quite what I was suggesting for THIS father.
        But THIS father erased every vestige of his former spouse for the new one.  The former spouse is his children’s mother.  Their mother, who they knew for 14, 16, and 18 years.  The woman who raised and nurtured them, and they had to watch her decline and die.  And then – while his children were grieving her loss – he erased her and forbade them to mention her, and replaced her as though she were nothing more than a toaster.  That’s pretty damn cold, and I would never have forgiven my father had he done this.   It speaks of a total lack of caring for his first wife or for the children.
        I believe the relationship with a spouse is DIFFERENT, and closer in the sense that you live together full-time, while your children “launch” (if you have done your parental job) and establish their own lives.  But the children are half YOU.  Most good parents would lay down their own lives to save their children, and make sacrifices every day to provide for them.  This man is not in that category.  He gave not a whit for their mental health, their grief, their needs for a loving and connected family.  And this is just as important in the teen years as in early childhood.
        The right thing for the father to do upon remarriage is to tell his children that he knows the new spouse can never replace their mother, and to keep at least some mementos to her memory.  The graceful thing for the new spouse is  to honor the memory of the deceased spouse, unless… of course… she wishes her own memory to be so callously discarded one day, and that memory severed from her own children as well.  YOU DON’T COMPETE WITH A DEAD SPOUSE.
        Think of it:  when you pre-decease your spouse, is this how you see your children, and your memory, being treated?  “Never mention your mother Annalyn again.  Remove her pictures.  Discard her belongings.  And you children will never return to our old home, and are not welcome to stay in my new wife’s home.”

      • avatar Lila says:

        Still thinking about your comment that one’s spouse is more important than one’s children.  I just don’t see it.   I’m curious as to your age and parental status; I suspect you are young and am certain you are childless, because you essentially have said that if it comes to a choice between your child and your husband, the child is the loser.
        Looking at divorce/breakup rates these days, I’d say spending the rest of your life with your spouse is a long shot at best.  Your philosophy would seem to have you discard your children for each remarriage.  Do you really not see the fallacy here?  Your spouse can stop being your spouse.  Your kids can never be anything other than your kids.  And they can never be anything other than their OTHER parent’s kids, too.
        Your kids are half YOU.  You can estrange yourself, but you can’t divorce your genetic legacy.  From a biological standpoint, the children are FAR more important than the spouse.  Parent/child relationships are permanent and don’t magically end at age 18, though the child hopefully will “launch.”  Do you really not want to know your grandchildren?  Do you really not want your children with you in your old age or at your deathbed?
        And one final thought: if the spouse is really more important than the kids, this widower should have honored his dead wife rather than flushing her down the toilet.  Not only was she disposable, his whole family was disposable.

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          I think that your arguments regarding child/spouse are strawmen.  I did not understand the other poster to mean that what you are inferring.  I understand your point of view about children, but I don’t think this is a direct choice between spouse or child.  As to the “biological” argument, I don’t think the point that you are making actually supports you.  Under a purely biological argument, you have propagated the species by reproducing and raising them until a point that they can survive on their own.
          As to parent/child relationships, perhaps you should come into dependency/juvenile court a couple days with me to see how permanent those relationships can be.  No relationship is guaranteed to be permanent nor should it be.  Really, what does a parent/child relationship mean if it exists solely due to volunteering genetic material.

          I am assuming that you are old and almost certainly single with children.  I don’t know that you are, I really am just guessing.  Please don’t take offense.  I am just making stuff up to show you how ridiculous that statement was.

          • avatar Lila says:

            State, my points were not solely about biology.  I also ask about ongoing life relationships, which is where the damage was done here.  In fact – since I am adopted, my own situation is not really about biology either.   It’s about family loyalties, secure relationships, and responsibilities.  Also, I read Annalyn’s other comments in this thread and they seem unnecessarily heartless toward the kids, particularly the 18-year-old.  You work in juvenile court; how many of those kids are there because their parents weren’t much of a parent?
            I admit I am very sensitive to this topic, having lost my own mother at an early age and then having seen our whole family – having lost Mom – basically discarded by my mother’s side of the family.  I know how it feels to be thrown away.  And I know how fiercely loyal I still am to my Mom, even having only known her for 6 years.  I know that I appreciated how my Dad kept her things for me, and kept her photos around the house to keep her memory alive.  Had he remarried but still honored my mother’s memory, I would have appreciated that.  Had he remarried and “erased” my Mom, I know I would have resented it.   Had the new spouse approached with “I know I can never replace your mother, but I want to be part of this family and care for you the way she would have,” I could have respected that; had she come in and erased my mother and banned me from my home at age 18 on the dot, I would have opposed her with every fiber of my being, gone forth and never looked back no matter what.
            As it was, my brother and I gave my Dad a lot of pride in our careers, we made sure he stayed in his own house and never went to a nursing home, and we were both at his side when he passed away.  We repaid his concern for our childish selves, with the loyalty of adult children.  Had he done as LW1’s father has, he would have had none of that.  Why can’t a new spouse be incorporated into the family, without estranging the children?
            PS, I am middle-aged, married and childless.  I know you were just pinging me but I stand by my statement.  I cannot imagine a parent really believing the relationship with the spouse trumps that with the children, on the basis that the kids move out at 18.  Good Lord.  Children are NOT a temporary 18-year project and then done.  I am not a parent but if I were – I know which relationship I would value more.  Spouses can stop being spouses.  Offspring cannot stop being offspring.  If more parents valued their kids this much, you might see fewer of them in juvie.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Lila, I love my children fiercely. I divorced my second husband partly because he just couldn’t seem to understand that we had a whole, new life and person to care for, nurture, and be responsible for, and his own extremely selfish needs came first. His true colors began flying as soon as he actually had to be accountable for a helpless little life. He had nurturing (in fact, spoiling parents). I did not. So it goes.
            R., my husband of nearly 17 years, is a nurturer, a family man, a wonderful father, compassionate, kind and caring. Together, we raised my first son, and our younger son. We’ve mad plenty of errors along the way…but we have also persevered, and worked at our job with love and dedication. The relationship between us and the children holds enormous importance for us.
            So does the relationship between us. I would say that neither trumps the other. R. is also my best friend, my passionate, funny, delightful lover, the sharer of my secrets, and my other half. Our personality types are precisely matched (which we discovered inadvertently). Our opinions don’t have to be, nor our taste. We are very much yin and yang. Our love is very deep and abiding. We have known each other for 26 years, first as best friends, then more completely.
            My children will always be my children, but they will not always be my babies, or my friends, or even favorably inclined toward me, as I have already learned. My oldest turned on me at the age of 16 because he preferred to go and live with his biological father’s family (who allowed him unlimited access…and I do mean unlimited…to ultra-violent movies, cable, and video games. We had no cable, or gaming systems in our home because of the advice of many school specialists, his psychiatrist, and his therapist). He assaulted me and his six-years younger brother (he is 6′ tall and 280 lbs.). I would not hurt my own child, so I had his father come and get him. Three years later, he has socially and psychologically regressed into a manipulative, avaricious, narcissistic adult whom I truly fear will eventually harm someone. O, yes, I love him, and I do everything I can to help him…but neither he nor his father want to here anything I have to say…because my way involves effort, and accountability, and responsibility.
            My younger son, raised the same way, is welcome anywhere, is compassionate, kind, funny and loyal to a fault. But Lila…I didn’t have my children to take care of me in my old age (or as a matter of biological clocks, friends having babies, or familial pressure). I always knew that they would grow up, not stay babies, and that my job, and my delight, and my love would go into helping them be the best people they could be. That doesn’t mean wealthy, or socially prominent, or a celebrity to me…that means content, and functioning, and experiencing some degree of joy in their lives. My older son is never truly happy. My younger son sees wonder in a newborn kitten and butterflies. He says he will take care of us when we are old…and he is only thirteen. Sometimes it breaks my heart.
            But I don’t know if I would quite be where I am today without R.’s love, respect, honesty and devotion. I can’t put my relationship with him, and my children, on a scales and determine which is the weightier…each has mass and significance, just of a different sort.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Apologies for all of the typos…it is 5:00 am and I should be taking advantage of the opportunity and sleeping in. Ah, insomnia!

          • avatar Lila says:

            Briana, thanks for your voice of experience, and so eloquently stated.  This topic just pushed my buttons due to my own background.
            You are so lucky to have found your soul mate.  I think you did right by your son to go the way you did.  Unfortunately we can’t control everything to get the best result, but we are still obligated to DO everything in our power to AIM for the best result, and you did.  I have a friend who had 2 kids and a husband like your first: no interest in being a parent, only interested in his own juvenile desires.  Like you, she divorced and is now remarried to someone truly wonderful, and he is such a good Dad to the kids.
            I hear you on the point about the spouse and child relationships being different but equally important, with your CURRENT soul mate; but it was not so in the case of your former spouse, or my friend’s former spouse.  Both of you booted the bad-parent spouses at least in part for the good of the children.  Now that you have found such good spouses and co-parents, things are different, thankfully!

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            The most important difference in the two relationships might be this: you and your spouse voluntarily go into your relationship, and choose to work at it, devote energy to it, change or maintain its direction…or end it if things do not work out as planned. Children…whether conceived biologically or adopted as infants or when young…have no choice in the matter and nature of their parents. They are trapped in the parent/child relationship.
            I therefore feel that we, as parents, have an obligation to our children to do our best to, even to the extent of putting aside our own wants and needs, to give our children every opportunity, bit of support and care that is necessary to help them succeed in this world. As I said before, for me this does not entail riches, fame and social standing. Sometimes it does mean going without certain things…such as sleep, and material items, and entertainment (which I never considered sacrificing…I had them with forethought, and I am not a martyr) for a time.
            Yes, there are frustrations, hurt and anxiety. But I do believe that the moments of pure joy, and ridiculous laughter, and love are worth it all. One of my sons is not a person I can easily like…but I do love him, and I care, and I worry. He is not a disappointment…he is just who he turned out to be, and all I can do at this point is hope that no harm comes to him…and that he brings none to anyone else. My other son…so far…is vastly different…and we are trying hard to gently keep him on the upward path he has set his feet upon.
            Lila, what disturbed me about the letter is that the writer has carried so much unresolved hatred for almost 30 years about a situation that seems so heavily weighted to one side. I am very wary of something so badly out-of-balance after so many years, and a hatred that seems to have been well fed, and to have grown so exponentially. She isn’t asking about the events so long ago…which is what everyone seems to be focusing on…but about right now. I can’t see anything good coming from an all out attack on an 80 year old man and his wife…or anything healthy about a woman still so filled with rage, loathing and embitterment. Something is askew in this story.
            But maybe that’s just my instincts speaking…although they’re usually pretty accurate.

      • avatar Ellie M says:

        Lila, I don’t understand your attitude about adult children not being as important as a spouse.  Do you even have any children?  It doesn’t sound to me like you would be a very kind mother.  I’m not saying that parents need to be totally selfless and forgo personal happiness, but children should be the most important thing in one’s life when they are small, and at least as important as one’s spouse when they are grown.  That doesn’t mean you have to pay their rent or let them walk all over you, but they should still know that their mom loves them and will be there for them if they need it.  If your children don’t have that then I feel sorry for them.  If you don’t have children, maybe you should keep it that way.

        • avatar Ellie M says:

          Sorry- I should have addressed that to Annalyn Stormraven, not Lila– I agree w/ Lila.  Sorry!!

        • avatar Lourdes says:

          Ellie M, the original poster who said that a spouse is more important than adult children is Annalyn Stormraven. Lila is merely responding to her, with a very similar point of view as yours (and mine, btw).

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        “you should value your spouse over your adult children.”
        well this is a ridiculously sweeping statement of nonsense.
        i guess i didn’t realize it was a competition.
        or that valuing people was a zero-sum proposition.

      • avatar grogthing says:

        we choose our mates and yes they are special relationships that are valuable to us. BUT … if you have children .. they are your responsibility forever. I dont care that legally you are off the hook when they turn 18, spiritually you are not. Your child didnt ask to be born nor the responsibilites that come with life. You made that choice, and they are your responsibility. Now if you do a good job of building them up and giving them the physical and emotional resources they need to be self sustaining adults, then great! Thats was your job. If they however need continued help and assistance even after adulthood, then you are still needed, and you job is not complete. I will always love my son, and will always be there when he needs me, no matter his age. I will also keep pushing him to be stronger and better and more prepared for lifes ups and downs. Thas my job. One I do with love. And a mate or spouse will never negate that.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        My mother once told me her pastor put the adult class through an exercise.: If you were at sea & you had to choose between your spouse drowning or your child, who would you choose? IT was either/or, not “but the spouse could save him/herself” . After choices were known, whereas most chose a child, he explained one should choose to save your spouse because one could have more children, but a spouse was a life partner. Children may stick by or not due to many circumstances.
        When I look around at my middle aged friends, I see very few giving much attention to their parents…

        • avatar butterfly55 says:

          Exactly why I don’t believe in religious training.  This fool is making it sound as if a child is a disposable item in your life, yet the spouse is the one who is more likely to leave a long the way (through death or divorce).  And you group who had this type of training obviously didn’t do well with it if they don’t give much attention to their parents, not that way with my family.

    • avatar impska says:

      She doesn’t say in her letter that she was denied keepsakes from her mother. In fact, her mother had a prolonged struggle, so it’s very likely that she gave those things to her daughter before she died.
      I suspect what she meant by “he disposed of all her things,” was that he had cleaned out the house of her things, aside from what was distributed to children. What’s more, it’s not clear that she has any idea what he might have kept privately for himself. She assumes nothing (I suspect), because he didn’t want them to speak of their mother to him.
      Obviously, the new wife saw the old wife’s fingerprints in the home, or else she wouldn’t have been so keen for a fresh house – suggesting that, in fact, there was plenty around to remind -her- of the dead wife.
      The LW’s interpretation of her father’s actions was that he totally erased their mother. Her complete lack of empathy for how he may have been grieving makes that assertion suspect.

  9. avatar Annalyn Stormraven says:

    I’m glad someone else saw this, too.  I’m sorry, she was over 18 and out of the house.  It wasn’t about HER.  I’m sure he grieved, but men do have a tendency to find another wife much sooner rather than later.   Also, I wonder how much she kept talking about Mom in front of the new woman because she admits she didn’t like it.  Sorry, you keep talking about my husbands dead wife incessantly, I’m not going to want you around either.  It’s not pleasant conversation and it needn’t go on for years.
    Maybe it’s harsh, but the tone of her letter makes me feel she didn’t take her mom’s death well.  Sometimes people do not take this natural progression of life in stride.
    Also, there is no rule that any parent, single or married, has to take their over-18 child back into their house for any amount of time.  Several of my college buddies were denied moving back home.  It didn’t make their parents bad.

    • avatar Alicia Burchett says:

      It does too make the parent bad!  Unloving and uncaring is what I would call it.  Refusing to allow a child to come home for college break?   Not allowing the kids to even grieve thier mother for a few months? 

      And you say that she didn’t take her mother’s death well?  Who takes thier mother’s death well?  Not too many people would! 18 may be legally an adult, but emotionally an 18 year old is rarely an adult–how could a child deal “well” with something that most adults couldn’t deal with?

      No, the father is a selfish ass who doesn’t deserve the time of day from any of his kids.

    • avatar Margy says:

      Let’s see, the mother died in May and by September he had a girlfriend, fourteen years his junior, and spending all his time there. It could be this relationship was already in the making while his wife was battling brain cancer. If not, he sure got moving! Get rid of the dead wife’s things within three months, head over heels with the girlfriend soon to be wife #2 and it seems not really parenting, after all his happiness was the only thing that counted. No discussion. His happiness, his children grieving over their mother intruded on his happiness.
      He was an awful parent.

    • avatar Anne Whitacre says:

      The Father was a “Father” before he was remarried and his obligation and duty was to his children, not to his sex life.  The letter writer may have been 18 (which is hardly grown up) but her brothers were still in the house and needed more guidance than “forget Mom  and move on”.  There didn’t need to be a shrine to the dead Mom … both the new wife and the father should have been adult enough to understand that the children were… children. 

        My father also was one of those guys who felt that he never committed any fault at all, and I did make a conscious decision — with the help of a counselor — to close the door on the unhappy relationship.  I never wrote a “you done me wrong” letter, I just let his inability to reach out and make an effort tell the story for him.  He died alone, but then he lived that way too — always pushing people away.

      There are times when its appropriate to be the bigger person; but there are also times when its appropriate to be self-protective, and realistic about the actual outcome. 

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I disagree that the father shouldn’t have balance between his needs and his family’s needs—but that’s just it—the magic word is “balance.”
        Really, it sounds like this isn’t a sinking ship, but rather a ship that has been sunk for some time. I think the LW should write the letter—to herself, and forget the whole “this is your LAST chance, Dad” routine, and be done with it now. Since no one else is looking out for her needs, she needs to do it herself and forget trying to convert an elderly man who is emotionally lazy. It’s not going to happen, and when it doesn’t it will be one more sting on top of a world of hurt.
        If she needs elderly influences in her life, go volunteer at a nursing home or a community center. I promise, there will be LOADS of people who will appreciate her time, her energy, her effort.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          And as far as LW2—if he was married during your time together, I’d write his commanding officer a letter and tell him that the guy is guilty of adultery. I’d then write all of his friends on Facebook a letter describing what he did.

  10. avatar Paula M says:

    LW1 makes no mention of what the current relationship with the father is like, only that LW hates dad and avoids him.  Where do the brothers stand in all this?   Are there half-siblings?  The “get out of my life” statement sounds like dad is somehow involved in LW’s life at this point, but to what extent is not specified.  Is dad reaching out?  I assume from LW’s anger that no apology from dad for his behavior has been forthcoming.  Does LW have fond memories of dad from before mother’s illness?  Did the parents have a happy marriage?  There are many things to take into account, which hopefully have been addressed in therapy. 
    All that said, the dad and step-mother both sound clueless and self-centered at best.  At worst they are heartless, selfish jerks who deserve whatever unhappiness comes their way.  To LW:  I agree with Margo completely.  If you have kept a distance from these two, then keep on with it.  If you think letting your pent up emotions out will help you heal, then do it as fully and as respectfully as you can so your conscience will not bother you years from now when you think back on it.  If you must do it in a letter, that’s fine.  If dad is reaching out to his children in his old age I would certainly let him know that the damage has been done, decidedly and unrepentantly, and that that train left the station decades ago.  For you to wonder if you are being cruel is, quite frankly, much more than he deserves. 

  11. avatar Maine Gal says:

    It’s great that LW1 got therapy to deal with the appalling actions of her father and stepmother. But it’s been 28 years since all this happened and if she’s still harboring that much hate then she ought to seek continued therapy for her own peace of mind and wellbeing.   What they did was wrong, she’s free (and perhaps correct) to despise them, but harboring that much anger continues to give them much control over her and her life.  If she can find a constructive way to deal with the hate, perhaps a process that would include writing that letter to her father, it would go a long way toward letting her regain control of her life from this terrible incident.

  12. avatar susan says:

    LW#1 – Sure 18 is of legal age and considered an adult, but in reality it isn’t.  To lose a mother at that young age would be devastating, especially at a time when a mother’s advice is so necessary.  Dad is most likey stunted emotionally and his way of dealing with the death is to quickly remarry and forget all of the pain.  As a stepmom, I blame the new wife for being so shallow, insecure and insensitive.  LW#1 should write a letter to dad and the wife, she deserves some closure.  Waiting for dad to admit and apologize for his disgraceful behavior is never going to happen.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  You have eyes with which to see.
      I blame both the new wife for her selfishness and the father for thoughtlessness and lack of a backbone.  And stand by what I said earlier:  you don’t compete with a dead spouse.

  13. avatar Lisa Richards says:

    LW #1 While I agree that what your dad and his 2nd wife did was unconscionable, you still have way too much invested in this.  I would suggest you seek further counseling to help you get past this.  You don’t owe them anything, including the time and energy which is eaten up by this hatred.

  14. avatar R Scott says:

    To both LW’s; I’m not big on revenge but in both of these cases I am reminded of the saying, “Living well is the best revenge”.  A little revenge here by moving forward and making a good life would be warranted.

    • avatar Miss Lee says:

      Exactly what I was thinking.  I wouldn’t waste amy more time and energy on doing any final letters etc.  Just get on with living your own life.  Last year I was contacted by a bill collector looking for an ex-husband of mine. When I told her I lived 2,000 miles away from him and had been divorced for over 10 years, she asked me to give him a message next time I talked to him.  I replied that I hadn’t spoken to him in over 10 years and she was on her own.  She sputtered and I reminded her that I divorced him.  I don’t have to talk to him ever again (we had not children).  Simple as that.

  15. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    I have been in a similar sitch as #1.  Grown when it happened though.  Did a year of therapy.  Finally got strong enough to tell the old bastard what I thought of him.  Felt great, and got my closure before the old fool died.  Do it.

  16. avatar Shannon R says:

    Annalyn Stormraven I really hope you don’t have children- for their sake.  No one is saying there is a rule that children need to be more important than a spouse.  You obviously didn’t pay attention to the timeline in the letter.  Their mother died in May and by September he was already in a new relationship, 3 months after that, they were engaged and were married a year after her mother died.  That was not “her going on for years about her dead mother”.  She was 18 so at the MOST she could have only just left the house to go to college.  It’s not like she had an established adult life.  Her life was her mother, father, siblings, home. This man had three teenage children that were all living at home during their mother’s illness and watched her die right along with the father.  To go from who knows how many years of facing their mother’s loss, and then losing their home and having a new stepmother a year later would be difficult on any child.  If the father was ready to move on, fine, but he should have done it with his children- their emotional healing and well-being his responsibility as their surviving parent- in mind.  Their father should have been more understanding of the trauma his children, his own flesh and blood, were going through.  That is not the parental thing to do, that is the HUMAN thing to do.  To forbid the children from remembering their mother and allowing them to truly grieve her loss was unconscionable. 

  17. avatar Shannon R says:

    Lila I completely agree with you about the stepmother.  I am 6 months into a relationship with a man who lost his wife very suddenly a year and a half ago.  He has two young girls and does a wonderful job of taking care of them.  I could not imagine acting as this stepmother had.  I feel that it is my responsibility as their potential stepmother to help him in keeping her memory alive and making sure the girls feel connected to their mother.  You do not marry the man, you marry the family.  I very much question the character of a woman who would allow her spouse to act as this father did toward his children and the loss of their mother.

    • avatar Alicia Burchett says:

      You sound like a kind and loving person Shannon.  🙂

    • avatar Lila says:

      I like your approach.  My Dad never remarried and sometimes I look back and think I could have benefited from having another steady, loving adult in my life.  A stepmother with your philosophy would have been a good thing.
      Brace yourself though!  There are sure to be some instances in the rebellious teen years of “you’re not my real mother…”  Don’t take that personally – it will pass and in the end, you are as much a parent to them as their Mom was.  A disarming technique which my Dad used, even in the absence of a step-parent:  “I try to do right by your mother and by you; I ask myself what she would want me to do right now.”

    • avatar Lila says:

      PS, a view from inside my head:  I lost my Mom at age 6; I remember her, but only as a 6-year-old or younger.  She is forever frozen as the mother of a young child; my memory of her did not somehow morph as I grew older.  You will be the parent of the tween, the teen, the young woman, and you will be Grandma to their kids.  Even as you help to keep their mother’s memory alive, you cannot be, and won’t be, directly compared to her in their minds.

      • avatar Shannon R says:

        Thank you for the insight! It’s nice to hear from someone who has been in their position.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you at 6 to lose your mother.  Your father sounds like a wonderful man who loved his children very much!  I have a friend who’s mother died when she was 12.  Her father has never remarried either.  She asked him once if he ever wanted to find someone else and he told her, “Your mother was the love of my life, she gave me my children and my family, that’s enough for me.  I don’t really have a need to get married again.”  My boyfriends girls just turned 3 and 5 so sadly they have very few memories of their mother.  I know her loss is going to become more significant for them as they get older.  My boyfriend and the girls have a great relationship with the in laws and they have welcomed me with open arms.  I’m so glad that my boyfriend and the girls have been surrounded by so much family support.  They are such sweet, loving girls and that just shows me what kind of person their mother was.  They have become attached to me and I am attached to them.  I enjoy doing the “girly” things with them that their father isn’t necessarily wired for!  Like explaining to him that they need pretty glitter makeup when they are dressed up as princesses for Halloween! 

  18. avatar Briana Baran says:

    RE: L#1: Some women replace too…I’ve known a few who have done so, and, frankly, if the illness of the former partner was very long and the suffering of the terminally ill loved-one very great, sometimes the grieving process of the surviving spouse has already been completely accomplished by the time death actually occurs. The surviving partner often suffers horribly too, having to deal with many different issues (agonizingly painful terminal illness can turn some people into unrecognizable monsters, and there is survivor’s guilt, guilt at feelings of dislike, wishing for the process to end, at not being able to stop the pain…plus grief, and an inability to express feelings, particularly in men, and loneliness, and even rage). Finding a new partner/spouse very soon after the death of a terminally ill partner whose suffering spanned many months, or even years, is not at all unusual.
    I can’t find anything to object to in the age difference between the father and the new wife either (my husband of 17 years is 10 years my junior, and my sister’s partner of 9 years is 12 years younger than she).
    However, the rest of the letter is open to question. The younger brothers were still living at home, true, but how old were they? My middle sister lived at home until well into her thirties. The LW was away at college, and seems to have objected strenuously just to her father’s new partner’s existence. I agree, disposing of all of her mother’s things in such a swift manner is inconsiderate…but did he dispose of everything? Her jewelry, her photographs, her small, significant momentos? And, if so, where was the LW in this situation that seems to have come about over the summer? Did she talk to him about this at the time, or question his logic (it seems that she was an adult)? My father died after a long struggle with cancer, and I flew in from out-of-state (at the age of 24, so not much older than the LW) and made it clear that certain things were not to be simply tossed out. If her father was adamant regarding the complete obliteration of every single item of her mother’s, then yes, that was irrational. If her got rid of her clothing and items of every day use, especially after a long illness, and cleaned house of the reminders of the long suffering, that can be interpreted as a different way of handling grief and laying to rest a long period of misery. What passes between spouses is often very different than what passes between a parent and her children, and frequently a complete mystery to the offspring.
    The father moving is not a surprise as it’s not an uncommon reaction to the death of a spouse, especially upon remarriage. To put the entire blame for the move, and the refusal to discuss his deceased wife with his children, on the new spouse is extremely presumptuous…she may well have had no desire to deal with at least two furious (and adult, or nearly adult) children of her new husband who despise her because they perceive, perhaps quite unfairly, as an interloper and an object of jealousy and scorn…but that doesn’t mean that she told him “I refuse to allow them, or you, to speak of HER“.
    Also, LW1’s mother died in 1983. Might I suggest that holding onto hatred for 28 years is not an indicator for successful therapy under any circumstances? And that the LW’s attitude is rather more like that of a child than of an adult as of right now? I am not projecting anything (I have an adult child, but no one’s died, I haven’t remarried and managed to enrage him, and I haven’t shared this exact experience…therefore I can’t project either way), but if she invested this much rancor into her resentful attitude toward her father’s decisions following her mother’s death, and refused to compromise or ease off, maybe there was some rationale to her father’s refusal to allow her to stay summers at his new home, with his much despised new wife.
    We only have one side of what is probably a very sad, complicated, horror-show of a situation. Before I am tach-nuked for “siding” (sometimes I feel like I’m still on my grade school playground) with the mean, selfish father, try to think for a moment. LW1 has been holding on to her hatred for almost thirty years. She blames her chronic depression on her father’s cruel and selfish actions, then claims that she is much better…except for the enormous energy she is investing in hating two people for 28 years. I do have some experience with this sort of situation. My mother still hates my (deceased for 26 years) father, first for cheating on her (starting 31 years ago), then for their divorce (29 years ago), then for inconsiderately dying the night before the day before they were to be remarried (26 years ago…and my dad’s final act of satire). My middle sister still loathes the man (for everything, starting 31 years ago, especially ruining her life, although she was an independent, working adult at the time). They are both miserable, lonely bitter people.
    I’ve only hated one person in my entire life, the 65 year old family friend who sexually assaulted me, held me hostage for three weeks, threatened me with beatings, and did everything but rape me the summer I turned sixteen. He died of cancer and Alzheimer’s about 20 years ago…but I had long before stopped hating him. I never hated my parents for refusing to even entertain the notion that I had been harmed by a much admired friend, or for purchasing land from him, or inviting him over to our house as an honored guest on more than one occasion. I don’t hate my mother for lying now, and telling me how she cut off her friendship with him as soon as I said something…which she didn’t. I never despised my parents for their acrimonious divorce, or even for trying to get me to testify…or for telling me a mere two weeks before high school graduation that my long-established plans for attending either Rice or Oberlin Universities were forfeit, because they had bought land from the man who essentially raped me, and all of their money was going to build their dream house.
    I am no saint, nor am I special. Hate takes a lot of energy, and you are in no way better if you still hate after 28 years. I’m not going to tell LW1 what to do, but I will tell you this…you’re killing yourself with your bitterness. Your father’s remarriage was none of your business…I am not one of those who subscribe to the idea that parents must discuss every personal decision with adult, or nearly adult children. As to the rest, maybe it’s time to reassess. It sounds as if you’d really love to let him have it with both barrels, perhaps because he is eighty, and you feel that the playing field is leveled. If you do, be prepared for short term relief…and long term misery, because what’s eating you will be vindicated instead of alleviated, and hatred feeds on vindication. I might suggest an attempt at a rational request for an explanation of what happened decades ago, but I fear that the merest suggestion that you might have been less than understanding, or that you might have actually been immature and reactive, will turn any discussion into an accusatory meltdown.
    I’ve never subscribed to making yourself feel better by making someone else feel terrible. That’s right, I’m not getting my jollies right now by being an insufferable…witch. I don’t even know if I believe in all of that forgiveness rot, much less forgetting. But peace of mind can’t be achieved by retaining hate…I know this much is true.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      The only thing I can think of regarding age difference is if it’s a situation like mine, where my father is only 17 years older than me, well, yes, having him have a 21 year old girlfriend when I was 18 would have been very awkward and uncomfortable indeed. I think most kids, particularly if they’re not grown adults, and even then, are very uncomfortable with a stepparent any less than 15 or so years older than them.

  19. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr #1 – I think there are a couple of issues here getting mangled into one.  Regardless of dad’s relationship with or reasons for his behavior regarding the mom – bad marriage, grieving, painful reminders, whatever, he had 3 children he needed to continue to raise.  He stepped away from his responsibility for them over his needs and his needs only.  Now, I agree, dad does deserve happiness but not at the expense of his kids who were not fully adults yet and weren’t allowed to mention their mother’s name!  What a jerk!

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      And all of that happened nearly 30 years ago, and is not the issue of the letter, which is whether or not the LW should go on the attack and bitterly confront the man she has relentlessly hated for all of those years, and accuse him of basically ruining her life with his selfish, cruel acts of almost three decades past. That is what she is asking, even though she claims to be better.
      We only have her memories and interpretation, colored by those 28 years of brooding, resentment, admitted hatred and rage to go by in this case. It is hardly uncommon for perceptions of long past events to be seriously altered by unchecked bitterness, and the story to keep changing in a “victim’s” mind until it suits her needs, particularly if she has never dealt with her own grief, resentment, jealousy and emotional conflicts. Clearly, LW1 has never allowed herself a chance to get past her father’s remarriage, “…I hate that my father managed to replace my mother so quickly…”, and we don’t have any idea of how much her fury at his new relationship precipitated some of the other issues at hand. We are only hearing one side of the story, and it is based in pure, unadulterated hatred.
      I am an advocate for healthy, honest parenting. It is how my own children are being raised. It is not in any way how I was brought up, my mother and father were genuine travesties as parents who never considered their children as individuals in need of compassion, respect, honesty or support. My mother truly makes LW1’s father look like a prince among men…and I am not playing a can-you-top-this game at all. However, my middle sister has created a whole new childhood for our family in which my father was a vicious, violent man (he never laid a finger on any of us as children, except that in my case I received two light spankings, and both before the age of 6, and I don’t think my sisters ever got a single one) who slapped my mother around (yes, he did slap her…when they were both inebriated, and with enough provocation from her that I would lie in bed silently wishing for her to shut her stupid mouth, because I knew what would happen, and so did she. She was an experienced gloater. If he had wanted to hurt her, he could have killed her. He usually just walked out. Should he have hit her? Hell no. But violent? No. not that either) and my mother was a martyr. In the 26 years since his death, she and my mother have reinvented history to the point that they completely believe their own fiction. That is what hatred can do for you…create an alternate reality out of lies you tell yourself.
      I suspect strongly that LW1’s story is not complete, and is slanted heavily against her father because she has allowed her hatred to fester, grow, and fill her with poison. She did not state that he kicked her brothers out of his new home, so apparently he continued to raise them. It would be interesting to know their current relationships with him and his wife. The prohibition against talking about her mother seems to have coincided with his decision (his wife is never mentioned as a factor in any of this, which makes me wonder why everyone is assuming she’s the villain) to not allow the LW to return to the house for holidays and the summer. Was this just random selfishness and lack of compassion…or did she hound both him and his wife relentlessly about their heinous actions in leaving her family home, replacing her mother, and being so horrible and evil to her? An eighteen or nineteen year old packed with hatred and righteous fury can be a completely irrational and formidable force herself, and completely lacking in compassion and extremely selfish too. Perhaps those edicts came down to keep the peace not just for him and his wife…but for her brothers as well, so that they could move on with the process of grief, and allow healing to begin.
      I am not projecting, or making up stories, but I am suggesting possibilities counter to the idea that the father is a rotten, child-abusing, heartless schmuck. It’s sometimes interesting to consider alternatives to the consensus, and to take a closer look at the tone of a given letter. And to consider the present, and the actual question at hand, not the distant past.

  20. avatar chuck alien says:

    “the duplicity, the using, the dishonesty, treachery and lack of integrity”
    not to nitpick… but there simply isn’t any of that in the letter.  maaaybe, the integrity, if you really don’t like breaking up via text.
    they went out, and talked about the future.  at some point, he decided that future wasn’t for him. so he broke up with her.
    just from the letter… there is no lying, dishonesty, or treachery… necessarily.  he didn’t break up very nicely… but hey, breakups suck.  she’d be just as pissed if he dumped her in person.
    changing your mind is not the same as lying.
    breaking up with someone is not the same as treachery.
    talking about the future does not necessarily mean that future will happen. it’s not a contract, it’s a conversation.
    yes, it sucks to get dumped.  but geez… has she never been dumped before?
    the only thing he did “wrong” was break up via text.  and that makes him a “skunk?”
    that’s a pretty tough judgment for someone who went out with someone for awhile, and then broke up with them (badly).  i think you’ve grouped about 85% of humanity into the “skunk” category.

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Hellllooooo Chuck – “I found out via Facebook that he is married”
      If this ain’t treachery, hon, I don’t know a skunk when I see one.
      Maybe you need to read the letter agaibn .

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        actually, i was going to respond by quoting margo.  and here you are.
        and i quote: “You don’t say whether he was married when all the romancing was going on”
        ok, so…  maybe you need to read the letter again?  (yes, i know, snarky.  but….)
        if we don’t know… then we can’t say he was lying, etc.  and we don’t, per you.  and i know enough to listen to you. 🙂

        • avatar K Coldiron says:

          In the best case scenario, he was seeing someone seriously whom he then married…while he was in Iraq…while he was romancing LW2. That is duplicity.

          If he went out and married a Vegas showgirl at random, with no prior dating history with his now-wife, AFTER he’d broken up with the LW, she’s still extremely well-shut of him.

          What’s likeliest is that he was married all along.

  21. avatar ebbs says:

    I am so sorry for LW1, both because of her father’s behavior—but most of all, because she has allowed this matter to dominate her life for TWENTY-SEVEN years. Surely by now, she should be beyond vindication.  It would be far better to spend happy times with those younger brothers, and let the sad things drift away.  Reaching out to reject her elderly father seems like a depressing, unrewarding activity. Instead, she might want to spend her middle years creating a happier life for herself and those she loves, and perhaps even for others who have suffered tragedy in their lives.  This choice would give her a lasting chance at overcoming the sad ghosts of the past.

  22. avatar Tiffany says:

    For all the people saying that LW1 was disregarding how much her father must’ve been grieving during the (ahem) four months that he was “alone” (except for his three teenage children), I say actions speak louder than words.  If we are to assume that he did everything the LW said he did, then that’s a whole lot of action saying, “I want to forget her as fast as possible, get on board or get out.”   I can’t imagine any amount of words that could counteract that.  Even if it was his way of coping, even if he’s not as unfeeling as it came across to her, he certainly failed to support his children during the most difficult time of their lives.  I’ve heard it said often that people mourn their dying spouses long before they die, so maybe that was the case here if her illness lingered. Just because his mourning was over, however, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t terrible parenting to not help his children deal with theirs.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Very nicely said.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Five stages of grief. Acceptance is one.  People get stuck in stages, people go through them quickly, some skip many of them. Regardless, this is how some people deal. IF this is his case, it is acceptable. Some of the LW stories are suspect. I’d like to hear the other side AND most importantly I think she needs to hear it as well. I’d also like to hear it from the brothers.
      As far as his sucky parenting, perhaps he did his best. The fact this woman is still harboring this 28 years is sad & leads my to believe she may be a bit dramatic.

  23. avatar OneTime says:

    LW1.  Sooner or later we must all accept, as we do that Santa is a myth of out childhood, that parents (our spouses, siblings, friends and selves) are only human.  My parents married young, spent my first 16 years in the throes of a terrible divorce, managed to lie, cheat and steal and prioritize others before their own flesh and blood – right until my father’s dying day. But it was I that bought the old man’s headstone. Somewhere in my early- to mid-20s, while putting myself through college, I saw them for who they really were: mere people, with their own problems and imperfections.  Forgiveness was not only easy, it was like a weight had been lifted. I moved past it.  Twenty years later, that lesson learned, I’ve been in a solid, happy, stable relationship for nearly 20 years with 3 children that can not fathom what my childhood must have been like – which is not to say life is perfect, it is not!  Hate is a terrible cross to bear.  

  24. avatar BigMouthFrog says:

    For LW#1…Hit him with both barrels if you are so inclined. You may want to take the ‘highroad’ on this but I doubt unless you tell him exactly what you think and feel, you won’t feel true relief.
    If he cant take, too damn bad. He obviously never cared enough about you or your brothers feelings throughout your mom’s illness and worse, after you also suffered  the loss. Sorry, but your father is a self serving pr*ck and if I could, I’d knee that selfish old man in the balls, walk away and eat a sandwich.
    Sorry your dad is such a schmuck to you guys!

  25. avatar Lym BO says:

    I have to agree. People grieve differently. Many faced with terminal illness grieve with the patient & are into acceptance by the time of death. It’s not unheard of for men to find another wife very quickly. It’s also not uncommon for the spouse to encourage he find a new wife. Unfortunately, his choice sucked for the kids. And I can understand that he didn’t want to talk about her (espec. in front of the new Mrs.).  He could have handled it better, but maybe that was his best for he didn’t know another way.  There were not the grieving resources there are nowadays.Gosh, if he is 80 then his dad (from whom he learned to deal with emotions)  was of the era where it wasn’t uncommon for a man to lose a wife or two. Even a few kids. How they dealt I have no idea, but they did. Lots to consider.
    Like Annalynn said, a discussion with dad might be in order, but not an accusatory one. If you listen, you might be surprised what he has to say or how he feels or felt back then.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I’m also surprised this has been festering for 28 years. Imagine how life could have been happier if it had been resolved 20 years ago.

  26. avatar Davina Wolf says:

    You don’t just “let it go” when someone treats you and your siblings like LW1’s dad did.  The letter writer is completely normal to feel rage and hate for as long as she wants.  There are so, so so many people who should skip having kids.   

    My dad has done many many many–nothing but–things like this over the last 50 years to me, my brother, sister, mom, his second wife, the zillions of women he bedded, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances (he never had real friends) and relatives.  I’m certain that he’s a psychopath and that it runs down his side of the family.  Now he’s 84, in contact with only his second wife, who’s got to be as sick as he is to have watched him treat everyone like crap for the last 40 years.  He implied last year that he doesn’t think she’s good enough for him either, and keeps trying to manipulate me back into his life.  I feel sad and appalled that his life is such a disaster, and didn’t have kids for fear of passing what I feel is a genetically-based defect on to them.  I need to send him a letter letting him know how sickened I am by the way he’s treated everyone before he dies.  (He sees himself as an aging prince.)  It will be a stressful writing session, but as a wise person said above, I’ll regret it forever if he dies before I tell him.     

    Margo’s advice and (most) comments to LW1s dillemma have been very helpful to me also–thanks.  

  27. avatar Fortuna says:

    Nothing is more loathsome and despicable than a parent who chooses a partner over his/her children.

  28. avatar katzamboni says:

    My father did the same thing as the LW#1’s father, exactly. My mother died when I was 20, I had two teenage brothers at home, my father was engaged four months after my mother died, they moved into her house, we weren’t allowed to talk about her or put up pictures of her, and I was at college and not welcome to stay for longer than three days in that house, even during summer break. I also lost having my own bedroom, so when I did come for the three days at Christmas I slept in the guest room and shared with her granddaughter, and my father gave away my mother’s things, including some of mine in the sweep. Also, I was not allowed to come to the wedding, because they married quickly while I was on a trip across the country. According to my dad, when I protested that, at least, don’t change our lives without me, him marrying my stepmother “had nothing to do with [me]”.

    After about six years of blaming myself as being as difficult and morbid and unlovable as he told me I was for not joining in the celebratory parade, four things happened:
    1. I stopped hoping for approval. Some parents suck, and I would never, ever be able to change my dad. Turns out most of the happy childhood was due to my mother, I guess.
    2. I turned, instead, for that care and guidance that even adult children sometimes need from parents, to my bishop (religious leader) and my mother’s sisters, who were missing my mother as much I died. It was incredibly helpful and healing to talk about my mother with people who loved her and mourned her, and my bishop gave me the help I needed, including guiding me to a counselor.
    3. I went to therapy, recovered from my feelings of guilt for being a bad daughter while my mom was alive, and learned how to rebuild my life even without the rock that had been the foundation of it.
    4. I stopped talking to my stepmother altogether and informed my father, gently but firmly, that he could replace his wife but he couldn’t replace his parenting partner, and that it didn’t matter if he remarried: he was a single parent. Man up.

    My father, fortunately, heard the last point, and it’s been better, a little. It’s still not great, I live on the other side of the country and only see them once a year, and when I talk to my dad it has to be when he’s at work because she doesn’t like him talking to me when he’s at home, but it’s better. I call my dad at work about once a week, and I’ve replaced what he should have been with church, aunts, and friends.

    What happened to LW#1 was a terrible thing. She not only lost her mother, who surely sorrowed to leave her, but she lost her family altogether, and that time seemingly by her father’s choice. There’s no getting around that it completely sucks, and I suspect her father knows that. In my experience, when someone fails as a parent and yet would make the same decisions again, he will blame the people he hurt (“immature troublemaker” is almost certainly a quote, and I heard it, too), because they are the reminder of his failure.

    If she wants to write him a letter, I’m actually fine with that. If she is feeling charitable, then she could include something he could do to try to begin to atone, a little. I don’t know what – maybe write down happy stories about her mother. That was one of the things I wanted from my father. Her father probably wouldn’t do it, but at least he would have an idea of what to do if he wanted to do something to begin restitution.

    More importantly, I strongly encourage therapy and forgiveness. Not for her father’s sake – he doesn’t deserve it – but for her own. She’ll never completely get over it, but maybe she can let go of the burden a little bit and build another emotional life. It won’t be the one it should have been, but it could be better than the one she has right now.