Ugly Family Secret: what to do?
January 6, 2013 3:36 AM Subscribe
My Dad died in early December, and I've unearthed a nasty secret while cleaning up/out his house. What do I do about this? Importantly, do I tell my Mom, who is also elderly and quite sick? (mom is in a nursing home and has been essentially quadriplegic for about 20 years). There's no real 'right answer' but I'd like people's responses.
Details below the cut.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have found a number of sexually explicit letters to my father from one of my cousins -- who would have been in her early 20's, when she was away at university at the time. It's pretty clear from the context that they were sexually involved and that the 'affair/abuse' was consensual -- 'don't write me love letters' is a constant theme, and he was obviously sending her erotic gifts and clothing. I don't have his letters, only hers. Judging from the vibe, I'd guess that this must have started while she was a teenager; the worst thing is a birthday card for her 17th birthday, which jokingly declares that she can now 'play with the big boys'. It's signed, so I assume that he thought better of giving it or that she gave it back to him. I'm assuming that it started after that.
The cousin accused my Dad of this a few years ago -- but she did it by writing my mother a letter describing her giving my Dad a blowjob. The letter was pasted on either side of a piece of cardboard, and hand-delivered to the front desk of my mother's nursing home; the intent was to have every person who handled it read it, thus humiliating my mother. She didn't attempt any thing as aggressive with my Dad.
Understandably, she has refused to speak to or have any contact with my father for years, and she really, really hates my Mother (who knows nothing about this, obviously -- I've asked leading questions) and me.
This is all really revolting, as I loved my Dad and don't want to find out this sort of shit about him; he's gone from beloved father to douchbag. While she wasn't a minor, it's still grossly abusive -- he was in his 40's, and she was in her early 20's, and he was in a position of family trust. I've found lots of evidence of other sexual affairs, but they don't bother me as much as this one: both parties were adults, and nasty and upsetting as some of the stuff is (god, when one girlfriend broke off the affair he went ballistic, classic insane ex behavior that lasted about three months) they're a question of adultery, not sexual abuse.
So: what do I do? I'm wondering about talking with the cousin about this, but I don't know how she'll react. I have to deal with her, as some of the estate is linked with her family (Dad owned property with his sister, her Mom, who died last year -- and Dad was barred from the funeral, which gives you an idea of the antipathy that exists). I'm distressed that her obviously real accusation, however distressingly made, was completely denied, falsely. But what do I say?
And I don't want to be a target myself: this woman tends to say it with lawsuits, and I really need the inheritance not to be locked up in the courts for years -- Mom needs the money for her care, and I've recently been diagnosed with a genetically aggressive form of melanoma that will kill me if it spreads -- so I'll need money to go to the states for quick treatment if it does. The estate is really a question of life and death for both of us. If she knows that, I'm afraid she'll launch some claims on it.
And do I tell Mom? She's asked why I'm asking about my cousin.