Q: I have a complicated family situation. My dad was married to a woman named “Cynthia” for 16 years until they divorced. He met and married my mother the next year. My parents were married for 40 years, until Mom died of cancer a year ago. Since her death, I have gone with my dad to a few holiday events hosted at his other daughters’ houses, where we saw them and Cynthia. Everyone was cordial and welcoming.
A few days ago, Dad told me that he and Cynthia are dating, and he asked me to wish them luck. My immediate reaction was “Why?!” I left immediately and have ignored his phone calls ever since.
I cannot express how upset this made me. I realize he’s a lonely old man who would like to maybe start dating again, but his EX-WIFE? It feels like a total betrayal of my mother and me, like we were only some sort of intermission from his first family.
There are so many reasons why this feels like a sad and terrible idea, up to and including the havoc it will wreak on all of his daughters if something goes wrong again. I feel like he hasn’t taken into account anyone’s feelings but his own.
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Am I selfish to feel this way? Is there anything I can do to stop this dead in its tracks? I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I will NEVER be OK with this. — “Intermission” Daughter
A: If you are never OK with this, you will punish only yourself. Your father’s divorce from Cynthia appears to have been amicable. His attraction to her may have more to do with the fact that he is drawn to someone familiar than any lack of feeling for you and your mother.
Instead of punishing him by ignoring his calls, I urge you to talk to him. What he’s doing isn’t disrespectful. He has mourned your mother’s death for a year. Let him find happiness if he can, because if you do, I predict that it will spill over into your own life.
Q: “Hiding My Smile in New Jersey” (Feb. 28) was embarrassed by the condition of her teeth, which she had neglected for years. Your advice to her/him was excellent, but I’d like to add one more suggestion:
Schools of dentistry often have programs in which care is offered to lower-income patients under a reduced-fee structure, based on the client’s income. Care is provided by dental students under close supervision by their board-certified dental professors. Students participate as assistants in procedures prior to being allowed to perform these procedures. In the latter case, the senior dentist serves as the assistant (and guide). — Patricia in Kentucky
A: Thank you for offering that suggestion, one that was echoed by many readers who wrote to lend support to “Hiding.” Some of them also advised looking into a company that provides credit to finance medical and dental work. Usually it’s a no-interest loan for a certain period, which allows patients to pay over time without having to wait for their care. The dental care provider may be able to recommend one.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.