Dear Amy: My 75-year-old father told me that he has decided that his stepson (my stepbrother) will no longer receive anything in his will. Why?
Well, my stepbrother has challenged my father’s political opinions a few times while talking to him on the phone. I’ve heard both sides of these stories, and while my stepbrother never yelled or made personal attacks against my father, it was apparently too much for my stepbrother to even question my father’s beliefs. My father is not speaking to him.
My stepmother died many years ago, and it seems my father is not considering any wishes she would have had, or he simply doesn’t care what she would have wanted.
Like my stepbrother, I am diametrically opposed to the political opinions of my father. Dad never holds back his opinions; you get them, regardless. Unlike my stepbrother, however, I do not challenge him; I just listen and nod to avoid causing any angst.
I think my father’s decision to remove my stepbrother from his will is ridiculous, but I do not know what I should do about it.
Should I let my stepbrother know? Should I try to convince my father otherwise? I’m at a loss. — Flummoxed
Dear Flummoxed: No, I don’t think you should notify your stepbrother about your father’s plans, which may change.
Yes, I do think you should advocate for your stepbrother, reflecting your own compassionate opinion that his mother would have wanted him to be treated fairly in your father’s will.
I also think you should be brave enough to judiciously tell your father that you also disagree with his political views, but you have been keeping quiet because he seems to link his own happiness and relationships to a person’s political views: “Dad, I don’t always agree with your politics, but I still love and respect you. It makes me sad that you don’t seem able to do the same. This is our family. We have a lifetime of history together.”
I applaud your advocacy on your stepbrother’s behalf. You can’t force your father to the table, and you can’t force him to leave money to your stepbrother (or you) in his will, but when that time comes, you could choose to address the inequity by sharing your inheritance with him.
Dear Amy: “What are your plans for the rest of the day?” I have been asked this question by an assistant at a drug store, and various personnel at my dental office.
This question has also been asked multiple times at one other business I frequent.
I hope you can help me understand if this question is an icebreaker, a conversation starter, or something else entirely?
I struggle to answer because I think that what I’m doing the rest of the day is no one’s business but mine.
How do I politely answer without offending the asker? And what is the intent of asking such a question? — Perplexed and Private
Dear Perplexed: This question is an icebreaker, a conversation starter AND something else entirely. The “something else” is sending you off into the world with a question, versus the old standby: “Have a nice day!”
I agree that the question is awkward. It seems like a social “throwaway,” and yet it is so specific that it puts you in a jam. And do you have to answer?
Please understand that these people are not trying to pry into your private life. Like all of us, they are plugging along during a global pandemic. Many people yearn for connection, even if that connection is glancing. These various employees may be aware that some of their clients and customers are a little starved for conversation, and this is a way to nudge one along.
A polite answer would be: “Oh, same old, same old. I hope you have a nice rest of your day.”
My mother was so private that she thought, “How are you?” was intrusive. Here is how she would have answered: “Well, I’m planning to go on a crime spree later this afternoon. Then I’ll be on the lam. Shh, don’t tell.”
Dear Amy: You recently ran a call-back reply from “Sad and Confused,” following up on her original question to you about whether she should visit her dying father. I was so gratified that she got back in touch to tell you that she had done so, and that she had shared a magical half-hour with him before his death. It truly brought tears to my eyes. — Grateful
Dear Grateful: Me too.