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Time to make a connection

Dear Abby: My father left my mother for a woman I'll call "Sheila" he met at work. I was only 7. My brother was 9 at the time; he committed suicide at the age of 20.

My father and Sheila eventually married and had four children who are now grown. Their oldest was born while my parents were still legally married.

My mother never wanted a divorce. She gave him one reluctantly when she knew all was lost, but she never got over it. Although Mom never said an unkind word about my father, she was never the same woman. Basically, she devoted her life to my brother and me, her home and her full-time job. She died last year after a brief illness, and my father didn't even attend the funeral.

Two weeks ago, I received a long letter from one of Dad and Sheila's kids. In it she told me that she had nothing to do with what happened, so couldn't we get to know one another? She extended an open invitation to lunch or dinner.

The thought of getting close to the offspring of the woman who broke up my parents' marriage and caused my mother so much pain is surreal. Abby, what do you think I should do?

-- Disconcerted in New York

Dear Disconcerted: Thank you for asking. I think you should take your half-sister up on her offer and meet her. She's right -- she had nothing to do with the unhappy ending to your parents' marriage.

While I can understand your anger and bitterness, please try to keep an open mind and go with no expectations. This woman may -- or may not -- be the most sensitive of the bunch, and it will be interesting to find out why she reached out to you. As I see it, you have nothing to lose, and she may be able to give you a new perspective.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

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