July 12, 2013 in Features

Dad’s widow won’t be part of family

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: My father married a woman 20 years younger than he. Since he died two years ago at 84, his widow hasn’t invited us over to the house I grew up in, and she has had extensive work done on the house. She sent my daughter a card for her birthday, but nothing else. When my brother came to town, she was too busy with her church to see him. She accepts dinner invitations, always comes on Thanksgiving and occasionally pays.

I always thought she married my dad for his money, and she insisted that he leave her everything; my dad told me that.

She showed no affection toward my dad when he was dying of lung cancer, and she gave him so much morphine that he lost consciousness.

Writing this, it should be obvious. I wonder if I am just biased against her. How does one handle a person like this?  – Anonymous

The only answer is a general and rather sad one, that there’s really nothing to “handle”; she apparently does not see herself as part of your family beyond a rather superficial sense of duty. Since you plainly dislike her, I’d say you’re overdue to release her from the last few family obligations. And expectations.

That said, two specifics seem worth bringing up:

• “So much morphine”: She couldn’t have given him more than he was prescribed. It’s possible his pain was finally well enough managed for him to sleep, that he refused further treatment. It might help you to talk to a hospice social worker.

• “Extensive work … on the house”: While it’s unfortunate your childhood home is getting transformed away, any new owners likely would have done the same. Grief and anger have a way of inflaming what would otherwise be routine.

I see why you’re concerned about bias, but I think it’s moot. You have your life, she has hers, and they needn’t overlap unless you want them to. If you feel it honors your father to keep her in the dinner-Thanksgiving loop, then do. If that hurts more than it helps, then don’t.


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