Democracy Dies in Darkness

Style | Perspective

Carolyn Hax: When it feels like the heir is the dirty laundry

By Carolyn Hax

January 2, 2018 at 11:59 PM

Dear Carolyn: My older sister recently passed away at 63. She had lived with my mother for the past 25-plus years, and with me, my husband and my mom for the past five. She gave her small Social Security check to my mother to help with living expenses. She could not have lived by herself with this money. Neither of her two adult children ever offered to assist in any way. My mother basically supported her — she wanted to.

With my mother's recent stay in the hospital, I encouraged her to write a will. She had intended to give most of her money — there is not much to speak of — to my sister. Now my two brothers and I would each get some money, and she is putting a small amount in for each of her grandchildren.

She thinks she should include something in her will for my sister — it would obviously go to her adult children. I'm not sure how to guide her. I have already stated that I believe she has done enough for my sister and her adult children.

I believe she thinks my sister is already forgotten and that her not being in the will would compound that. It's sad and I feel bad for my mom.

— K.

K: I think the kindest way to guide her would be to stay out of her way. If it's important to her to honor her late daughter in her will, then that takes precedence over your opinion of your sister's children — even if you're right that the effect would be for these kids to benefit from washing their hands of their mom.

One possible bypass: If your sister had a favorite place or cause, then you can suggest to your mother that she donate something to it that bears your sister's name. Such a memorial would achieve your mother's ends even better than a bequest to her children, I'd say — and it would be merely a convenient benefit that it left your sense of justice a lot less chapped than it would have been with your mother's Plan A.

Dear Carolyn: I have a friend who admittedly suffers from smartphone addiction. We will be at dinner before the theater, and he will text as though I'm not at the table across from him, show me pix of his boyfriend and side piece, more pix of cats and grandchild. Okay. When he does put the phone down, he rehashes the latest family crap.

I have things going in my life, but I can't speak of them between digital noise and verbal restreams. I know he's lonely, but I'm at my wits' end. My instinct is to be perpetually unavailable, but welcome any suggestions.

— C.

C: The phone problem is easy, especially given his addiction admission. Say you won't dine with him unless he turns it off and puts it away-away. You have that right.

If he refuses, then, huzzah, that solves the other problem of disengaging from a friend you clearly don't like.

If he agrees, then at least find out if killing the phone revives the conversation. It's not an unheard-of result. And don't be afraid to say outright that you'd cherish a turn to speak. If quitting him is the alternative, then why not try?

Write to at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.


Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis — Carolyn's ex-husband — and appears in over 200 newspapers.

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Style | Perspective

Carolyn Hax: When it feels like the heir is the dirty laundry

By Carolyn Hax

January 2, 2018 at 11:59 PM

Dear Carolyn: My older sister recently passed away at 63. She had lived with my mother for the past 25-plus years, and with me, my husband and my mom for the past five. She gave her small Social Security check to my mother to help with living expenses. She could not have lived by herself with this money. Neither of her two adult children ever offered to assist in any way. My mother basically supported her — she wanted to.

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