Dear Abby: Cruelties of the past linger in relationship with stepmom

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, March 21, 2021

DEAR ABBY: For more than four decades, my stepmother, “Vera,” and I never got along. We tolerated each other for the sake of my father, who has now passed away. I’m a 60-year-old male reader and unsure how to respond to some recent statements she has been making.

For the record, I and many others always found Vera to be extremely self-absorbed and lacking in empathy. She often treated my father unkindly, bordering on abusive before and during his slow decline with dementia, even though she never had to provide any hands-on care. Yes, I know it’s hard to always be patient in these cases, but Dad was never “difficult” or violent — just forgetful.

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I call and visit Vera (who is now 87) occasionally, out of a sense of duty. A few times she has mentioned the unkind things she said or did to my father, not expressing remorse but possibly feeling some guilt.

Thus far, I have ignored these remarks, though I want to let her know I felt sad and angry about how she acted and could never live with myself if I’d treated my seriously ill spouse that way. Should I keep letting it go or express how I really feel? — GRIEVING SON IN THE WEST

DEAR SON: The next time Vera mentions the unkind things she said or did to your dad, feel free to speak up and let her know that not only did you notice but also how you feel about it. Frankly, it is admirable that you check in on the woman at all considering how you felt about each other all those years. I don’t think most people would do as much as you have done under similar circumstances.

DEAR ABBY: I have two wonderful grandparents I love very much. They are the most important people in my life, and I always think about them when planning anything in my life because I want to make them happy.

The problem is I want to go to college out of state and pursue a career that isn’t possible in the city or state they live in. They want me to live with them in a city I can’t be happy in because of this.

How do I tell them I can’t see myself staying there for the rest of my life? I know they won’t be happy hearing it, but I don’t want to disappoint them or make them think I don’t love them anymore by leaving. Please help. I don’t know what to do or what path in life to take. — AT A CROSSROADS IN TEXAS

DEAR AT A CROSSROADS: You ARE at a crossroads. You’re standing in the intersection of adolescence and adulthood. You deserve the chance to fulfill your dreams, so it’s time for an adult conversation with your grandparents. Explain that you love them and don’t want to disappoint them, and outline what your plans are regarding your education and your career. While they may be disappointed, if they love you as much as you love them, they won’t stand in your way.

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