Q: After I became an adult and left home, my father remarried a woman with a grown son. “Jack” has been incarcerated for the past several years. I have only vague information about what he did, but I do know it was related to drugs and gang affiliation.
His mother insists he was “framed” and refuses to talk about the charges. I haven’t been able to find any public information except that this wasn’t the first time he was arrested. My father has hinted that there is a bigger story there, but he keeps quiet out of respect for his wife’s feelings.
Jack will be released soon, and my stepmom is already planning big family events for us to welcome him home. I have a wife and kids now, and I’m not sure I want them around an ex-con. At the same time, I don’t really know what happened, and I don’t want to start a family rift. What should I do next? — What’s the Secret?
A: Talk to your father and tell him that unless you know the whole story about what Jack did that you will not be a part of the welcome home party. As a parent, you have a right to know whether your children could be in danger if they are around him and base your decision on it. Not that Jack might ever hurt your children, but should a rival gang member come after him, they might be collateral damage, as we so often read about these days. Better to err on the side of caution.
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Q: I was divorced 10 years ago. My children are all over 21. I talk with them once a month, but I contact my ex-wife only when there’s an issue that relates to our kids.
My ex now has cancer. When she dies, am I expected to attend the funeral? I would like to go as a show of respect to my kids. However, I don’t know how they would react because they know I have had little contact with their mother for the last decade.
The same question goes for my ex-mother-in-law, who is almost 90. I had a good relationship with her until the divorce, at which point she would no longer talk to me. Should I be there since she is the grandmother of my children? — Planning Ahead
A: I think your question may be somewhat premature. Your relationship with your ex-wife and her mother may improve before anyone dies, and let’s admit it, YOU could be the one to go first.
If there is any chance that your presence at her mother’s funeral would upset your ex-wife, then I vote for skipping it and explaining the reason to your children. As to attending your ex’s funeral when (and IF) the time comes, remember that funerals are to comfort the living. During one of your monthly conversations with your children — once your ex-wife is determined to be terminal and NOT before — ask what their wishes are and abide by them.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.