Ask Jennifer: Week ending...

Posted at: 01/04/2010 9:04 AM
Updated at: 01/12/2015 6:57 AM

Dear Jennifer,

I read the letter last week from Alicia about her deadbeat dad. I’m going through something similar. My father left us when I was 6. He never came by the house to see me and he never sent my mother any money to help us. We were so poor there wasn’t always food in the house. I am the baby. I have an older sister but she is 15 years older than me. She got married the year after my father left. She had a relationship with him all this time. Now he’s old and she thinks I should help her take care of him. I love my sister, but I don’t love my father. I’m hurt that he didn’t care enough to see me or even to call. He was never there when I could have used a hand and now I’m supposed to help take care of him? My sister said he talked about me a lot. She said she will never speak to me again if I don’t help her. What should I do? I don’t want to lose my sister but I sure as heck don’t want to help my father. I hope you have a good idea about this. I feel like my father has come between me and my sister now too.


Dear Donna,

Families are our strength and sometimes our agony. Your sister should be able to understand your feelings. If I’m interpreting your letter correctly, your sister didn’t facilitate visits with your father when you were young. Now you feel you are forced to choose between your anger at your father and your love for your sister. Is there a compromise possible? Could you help your sister consider the options for caring for her father? Perhaps both of you could call Lifespan and attend an appointment together to think this through. In this way, you are providing moral support for your sister while eliciting other options to provide the direct care.  You might also consider family therapy (ask your doctor) or a mediator which could be a Geriatric Care Manager, such as my office at Senior Life. Both you and your sister are hurting. Concentrate on how much you love each other. Take a deep breath and discuss how you can each respect the other’s feelings while supporting each other as well. Good luck.