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Carolyn Hax: Withhold late mother’s ‘unhappy’ journals from siblings?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Hi Carolyn: My mother passed away 13 years ago. My siblings and I have been holding a lot of her old stuff in a storage unit since then. I am the only one in town.

My mom was a prolific journal-er and also quite unhappy most of the time, despite us all remembering her for the amazing and kind woman she was. I’d like to take her journals out of storage and keep them, mostly to protect her privacy and the feelings of my siblings. Is this selfish?

— Hanging on to the “Stuff”

Hanging on to the “Stuff”: I get angry just imagining one of my siblings doing that to me.

Journals are life after death — and life is messy and complicated. It is neither fair nor your place to withhold that life from your siblings, no matter how kind your intentions might be.

Dear Carolyn: My late husband had an affair early in our marriage that produced a child. My children, now in their 50s, are talking about having DNA matches done. Should I inform them about the possibility of a half sister? Or wait for the inevitable?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Almost to a person, those who receive difficult information say it matters how they find out.

There might not be anything you can do to prevent fallout from a truth like this, but you can make sure they hear it from you. Please do.

Dear Carolyn: My nephew is getting married a day’s flight away. The hotel required guests to prepay in full.

Despite my sister’s pleading, I declined to book and told her it was because it cost my full vacation budget for the year and the reservations were non-cancelable.

So my sister booked for me, saying that if we have to cancel for medical reasons, she’ll swallow the thousands of dollars. Otherwise she wants me to repay her.

I don’t like discussing money with my wealthy sister. What are the obligations to attend destination weddings? How can I deal with this?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: You can say no.

People are welcome to get married at diamond-encrusted altars on remote islands and insist their guests charter dolphins to get there. What they can’t do is spend other people’s money for them.

The guests can always say no.

So destination weddings aren’t at fault here. Your sister is at fault, nonrefundably, for making your plans for you.

Be kindly unequivocal when you restate your decision not to go: “I’m sorry to hear you did this, because I still don’t intend to go.” (Unless you’ve since changed your mind.)

Unfortunately, someone who thought it was okay to spend your money for you may blame you for her own mistake — because she doesn’t see it as a mistake.

You also can’t stop her from taking any resulting anger or frustration out on your relationship.

But if the pressure from your family bothers you, then know your only weapon against it is to refuse to yield to it.

Sometimes figuring out the right thing to do involves projecting long-term, and deciding which unwelcome consequence sounds more appealing to you.