Ask Amy: Biological father and son can’t seem to talk
Dear Amy: Recently, my biological father emailed me to say he’d like to get to know me. We’ve never met. He is 81, I am 64.
He had long denied that I’m his son, and until recently had been very hostile to any attempt on my part to be in touch.
Decades ago, I did some research on him and decided that I knew enough and moved on.
He was a successful businessman and is the patriarch of a large family.
I am also successful in my work and happy with life and my large family.
I have politely responded to his emails, but I have decided that I am not interested in an email relationship with a near-complete stranger, whom I don’t know and have zero affinity with.
I have offered, however, to meet him in person. (He lives in another state).
He responded by saying it would be a waste of my time and money if I have no desire to develop a relationship with him.
I consider the travel cost to be a very minor expense. He dismisses my feelings regarding meeting in person, versus corresponding.
My sense is that this ship sailed decades ago, and I’d prefer to move on.
Is that wrong?
– Moving On
Dear Moving On: I am assuming that you would prefer to meet in person to see for yourself any physical or other familial traits, and to satisfy what might be a lifetime of periodic curiosity about your biological father.
One reason some people prefer to communicate via email versus in person is because they are more in control of the conversation when they are corresponding. This lowers the risk that they will encounter the other person’s visceral reactions.
In the case of an elder, it is possible that he has physical ailments or lifestyle realities he does not want to disclose. He might be afraid of your anger or trying to prevent you from meeting other family members.
And it is worth noting that he did his only part in bringing you forth when he was 16 or 17 years old. Surely fathering a baby at such a young age might have been a factor in some of his regrettable subsequent choices.
You two seem locked in a skirmish for who gets to control the conversation, but hey – that’s easier than actually communicating. (I’m also wondering if there is a familial streak of stubbornness at play.)
You obviously don’t anticipate or desire any sort of loving reunion, but I do think you might regret it later if you didn’t express yourself and ask any questions now, even if it is via email.
Think of it as receiving information instead of having a relationship, which you have stated you do not want to have.
Dear Amy: When I was going through my divorce, my ex-husband told our two sons that if they talked to me (their mom), then he wanted nothing to do with them.
My sons told their father that I’m their mother and he is their father and that they would not disown neither one of us.
My ex never spoke to them again.
Now it’s been 12 years. My ex died of lung cancer. His family never notified my sons that their father was dying or had died. I found out by accident when I ran into my ex’s distant cousin. My ex was an alcoholic and he drank till the day he died.
I hired an attorney to look into a will and to our surprise my ex has intentionally omitted his sons from his will.
My ex’s family took everything. I feel like his family should have given my sons something, but they took it all.
What do you think of this?
Dear Devastated: I think that your sons got lucky to have you as their fierce and protective mother.
Everything about their father’s family’s behavior tracks. They did not “take” these things — they were given these things. And they decided to keep them.
I hope you will do everything you can at this point to continue to help your sons manage their own confusion and sadness.
Dear Amy: I disagreed with your advice to “Appalled,” the consultant who was kissed on the lips by the director of a nonprofit she was consulting for.
The consultant should have spoken to him directly, rather than go to the board. Involving other people would be a mistake.
Dear Disagree: The board had just hired him; they should know about this serious breach.
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