DEAR ABBY: I would like to make my father's final years of life happy ones. The problem is, Dad is a bigot. He is loud, opinionated and verbally abusive to and about people. Visiting him is stressful because I know the conversation will, at some point, turn to how terrible a certain person, country or political persuasion is. He is ill-informed yet convinced he is right.
My father is also not willing to forgive anyone who has hurt him. He thrives on anger and hate. It saddens me that his last years are so rooted in unhappiness and negativity. I don't know how to create lasting, loving memories -- for both Dad and me. Any suggestions would be appreciated. -- OUT OF IDEAS IN NEW ORLEANS
DEAR OUT OF IDEAS: Your impulse is noble, and I respect you for it. But your father didn't suddenly become the way he is. What you have described are the patterns of a lifetime.
You might have better luck if you limit your time with him, and when you visit and he goes off on a tangent, smile and say, "Dad, we get to spend so little time together -- let's talk about happy things." If that doesn't improve this situation, you might be able to retrain him by saying, "Dad, if you're going to go on like this, then I can't stay."
But please accept the fact that you are not going to change your father. Change has to come from within.