Dear Amy: Ten years ago, my father had an affair with an old high school girlfriend. He divorced my mother to marry this other woman. My parents had been married for more than 20 years, and my mom was understandably devastated and went “no contact” with him. My brother and I were in college at the time and, after a lengthy period of estrangement from our dad, are barely back on speaking terms with him.
Recently, our mother died after a brief illness. I stopped by a relative’s home before the funeral and spotted my father dressed up and seemingly ready to attend.
Amy, I flipped out. My father treated my mom terribly during the divorce. They had been in the same room only a handful of times over the years for college graduations and a wedding.
They were not hostile toward each other, but also were not speaking. I know my mother would not have wanted him to be at her funeral and I told him as much. (His wife had enough sense to stay away.) I went into bouncer mode and forbade him from attending.
My brother and his wife backed me up, telling him that it would be inappropriate for him to be there, considering how he had ended the marriage, and taking into account their nonexistent current relationship.
He insisted that he was only there “to support us” and had no malicious intent. We stood our ground, and he opted not to attend her services and has been sulking ever since. He says that we owe him an apology, but we think he’s being his usual selfish, self-serving and perpetual-victim self.
What do you think?
— Not Going to Apologize This Time
Not Going to Apologize: I’m with you and your brother. If your father had really wanted to support you through this trying time, he would have contacted you both in advance of showing up to express his fatherly concern and to ask how he could best support you.
Showing up where you suspect you’re not welcome is classic behavior for a practiced boundary-crosser. His demand that you apologize for your reaction to his insensitivity is simple misdirection, but if your reaction created a scene that made others uncomfortable, then this is something to acknowledge and perhaps apologize for.
Now that you have asserted a strong boundary with your father, I suggest that you should use neutral language and communicate to him that in order for you to have a better relationship moving forward, you will need him to understand how deeply his actions over the last 10 years have affected you.
Use “I statements,” detailing your feelings. A defensive (or offensive) response from him will underscore your instincts, but you will have had your say.
Dear Amy: I have five grandchildren. I had two children — a son and a daughter — but unfortunately my daughter passed away in 2014 due to illness. When she died, she left two young children behind.
Sometimes I feel like I do more for those two grandchildren than I do for the other three grandkids, and I feel guilty.
My son takes excellent care of his children, so I don’t have to spend as much money or time with them as I do with the other ones. Please let me know if I’m wrong for the way I feel. Should I change now, before they recognize this imbalance, too?
— Guilty Gram
Gram: I’m genuinely sorry for your loss. Your choice to step up for your grandchildren is natural — and commendable. If your daughter passed away almost 10 years ago, then your grandchildren are already aware of any differential in your attention to them.
Sometimes guilt can be a guide, pointing toward changes you need to make. But I’m a firm believer in young people’s ability to accept the universal truth that life isn’t necessarily fair.
Shower all of your grandchildren with loving kindness, and discourage everyone in your life from keeping score. That includes you.
Dear Amy: The question from “Grief and Joy” touched me. Hours after her engagement, her grandparent died, and she was conflicted over how to share her good news during such a sad time. My fifth child was due on the first anniversary of my dad’s death.
I apologized to my mom when announcing the impending birth, and she said, bless her heart, that it was good to have something happy to think about. I have always, always remembered that.
Grateful: This is lovely. Thank you.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.