Dear Annie: My parents divorced 18 years ago, and Dad has had numerous partners and wives since. Three months ago, Dad found out he had stage-four colon cancer. Two weeks after his diagnosis, he married “Sue.”
Here’s the problem: Before he was sick, Dad didn’t get along that well with Sue. They argued a lot, and my sisters and I thought he’d eventually break it off. Still, we were all polite to her and invited her to family gatherings. As soon as they married, Sue started pushing us away. Her family members had confrontations with my sisters at the hospital, telling us we were butting in too much.
Dad recently came home. We are determined to do whatever we can to help and be with him until his final day. We used to come over to take out the garbage and mow the lawn, but now Sue has hired people and says we don’t need to come by anymore. When we told Dad how upset we were, he said he is too sick to argue with Sue and she can do whatever she wants.
Dad just had a birthday. We gave him a puppy since he told us in the hospital that he wanted one to sit with him through chemo. Sue got rid of it. We think she is emotionally abusive to him. I know he’s terribly depressed because he keeps asking for his gun back. We don’t want to create problems. We just want to be part of Dad’s life before we lose him. Any ideas? – Confused in Michigan
Dear Confused: This type of situation is sad but not uncommon. Sue needs to control everything in your father’s environment in order to cement her position as his wife. She fears you may influence him in a way that does not benefit her. If you think she is truly abusive, call the authorities. Otherwise, do your best to give Sue the control and respect she thinks she deserves in order to find a way to see your father and offer him some comfort.