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by Abigail Van Buren

Letters From Elderly Dad Are Only Thinly Veiled Criticisms

DEAR ABBY: I could use some advice on the best response to my 89-year-old father's letters. He cleverly inserts insults into them without writing anything for which he could be criticized.

For example, he has always talked about how he hates fat people. I am very overweight. My father sends me letters talking about how fit and trim another relative is who had just visited. That's all he says about them, and it's all he writes to me about. I can certainly read between the lines.

This isn't a one-time thing, just one example. I know my father will never change. He was abusive to me, my siblings and my mother. I see these letters as another way for him to continue his abuse, so I ignore them. Not engaging is my way of taking the high road. Extended family and friends bug me to talk with him about it, but I have never had a good experience with talking to my father.

I would have hoped that being closer to death would cause him to reconsider his interactions with his children, but he just isn't able to do so. Could you recommend a response other than silence? -- READING INTO IT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR READING INTO IT: As a matter of fact, I can. Write him back and say something like this:

"Dear Dad, you may have been wondering why I don't respond to your letters. They contain nothing more than comparisons to other relatives who are skinnier and more fit than I am, and frankly, I find them painful to read. I am not writing this as a criticism of you, but only so you will understand my silence.

"Sincerely,

"Your Daughter 'Judy'"

You do not have to talk to him. This should get your message across.

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