DEAR ABBY: On Mother's Day, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law, "Gertrude," had been sick for several years. While we were there, my father-in-law, "Hank," told us he was tired of taking care of her and not getting any relief. This was the first time we heard that he was in need of help.
Two weeks later, Hank called to say that Gert was very ill and the doctors didn't give her long to live. My husbvand is a long-haul truck driver and was on the West Coast. It took us three days to get to his parents. When we arrived, we found Gert's health had drastically deteriorated. She was bedridden and could hardly speak. It was obviious it was only a matter of days.
As we were about to leave, Hank said he wanted us to meet someone. He left the house and returned 10 minutes later with a woman. He introduced her as his "special friend." Abby, she was his girlfriend! He brought her into the house while his wife of more than 40 years lay there dying. Two days later, Gert was gone.
\ While we were at the funeral home making the burial arrangements, Hank called his girlfriend on his cell phone and asked her to accompany him to his grandson's graduation. (It was the same day.) When she arrived at the funeral home, they clung to each other to the point of being sicke ning, and he told us he loved her.
Can you believe anyone would have so little respect for his wife and family? My husband and his sister are appalled. Had he waited a reasonable length of time to introduce eus, we could have accepted it. Granted, Gert wasn't the easiest person to live with, but Hank was sick for many years himself, and Gert stood by him, worked and took care of her family, too.
What do you think of his behavior? -- HORRIFIED IN HICKORY, N.C.
DEAR HORRIFIED: It appears your father-in-law was experiencing caregiver burnout for some time. He was overwhelmed by the responsibility and needed someone to lean on. Since no family was there to help him, he turned to a "special friend."
While I agree the timing of his declaration of love leaves something to be desired, please do not judge him harshly.