Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Cruelties of the Past Linger in Relationship With Stepmom

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.

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.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Death | Aging