Albany Times Union
Late mother’s unhappy journals present conundrum
Dear Carolyn: My mother passed away 13 years ago. My siblings and I have been holding a lot of her old stuff in a storage unit since then. I am the only one in town.
My mom was a prolific journal-er and also quite unhappy most of the time, despite us all remembering her for the amazing and kind woman she was. I’d like to take her journals out of storage and keep them, mostly to protect her privacy and the feelings of my siblings. Is this selfish?
— Hanging on to the
“Stuff ” Hanging on to the “Stuff”: I get angry just imagining one of my siblings doing that to me. Journals are life after death — and life is messy and complicated. It is neither fair nor your place to withhold that life from your siblings, no matter how kind your intentions might be.
Dear Carolyn: My late husband had an affair early in our marriage that produced a child. My children, now in their 50s, are talking about having DNA matches done. Should I inform them about the possibility of a half sister? Or wait for the inevitable?
— Anonymous Anonymous: Almost to a person, those who receive difficult information say it matters how they find out.
There might not be anything you can do to prevent fallout from a truth like this, but you can make sure they hear it from you. Please do.
Dear Carolyn: My nephew is getting married in a three-day extravaganza, in a foreign country, a nine-hour flight away. The hotel required all guests to fully prepay four months early, at a rate that exceeded its all-expense rate posted online.
Despite my sister’s pleading, I declined to book and told her it was because it cost my full vacation budget for the year and the reservations were noncancelable.
So my sister booked for me, saying that if we have to cancel for medical reasons, she’ll swallow the thousands of dollars. Otherwise she wants me to repay her.
I don’t like discussing money with my wealthy sister, but I feel scammed. What are the obligations to attend exorbitant destination weddings? Why do families pressure each other on such expenses? How can I get over my resentment? —B.
B.: Say no.
People are welcome to get married at diamond-encrusted altars on remote islands and insist their guests charter dolphins to get there. What they can’t do is spend other people’s money for them. The guests — you — can say no. So “exorbitant destination weddings” aren’t at fault here. Your sister is at fault, 100 percent, nonrefundably.
What a presumptuous thing she did. It is only fitting that her cheek will cost her thousands of dollars.
Be unequivocal when you restate your decision not to go: “I’m sorry to hear you did this, because I still don’t intend to go.” (Unless you’ve since changed your mind.)
Sometimes figuring out the right thing to do involves projecting long-term, and deciding which unwelcome consequence sounds more appealing to you.