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Advice | Carolyn Hax: Keeping Dead Mother’s ‘Unfortunate’ Diaries From Siblings?


Hi Caroline: My mother passed away 13 years ago. My siblings and I have since kept many of her old things in a storage room. I’m the only one in town.

My mother was a prolific diarist and quite unhappy most of the time, even though we all remembered her as the wonderful and kind woman she was. I would like to take her diaries out of storage and keep them, especially to protect her privacy and the feelings of my siblings. Is this selfish?

— Stick to the “Stuff”

Stick to the “Stuff”: I get angry imagining one of my siblings doing that to me.

Magazines are life after death – and life is messy and complicated. It is neither fair nor your place to deprive your siblings of that life, no matter how kind your intentions.

Dear Caroline: My late husband had an affair early in our marriage that produced a child. My kids, now in their 50s, talk about getting DNA matches done. Should I inform them about the possibility of a half-sister? Or wait for the inevitable?

Anonymously: Almost to a person, those who receive difficult information say that it matters how they find out.

There may be nothing you can do to prevent the consequences of a truth like this, but you can make sure they hear it from you. Please.

Dear Caroline: My cousin is getting married, flying a day away. The hotel requires guests to pay the full amount in advance.

Despite my sister’s plea, I refused to book, telling her it was because it took my entire vacation budget for the year and the reservations were non-cancellable.

So my sister booked for me and said if we have to cancel for medical reasons she will swallow the thousands of dollars. Otherwise she wants me to pay her back.

I don’t like talking about money with my rich sister. What are the obligations to attend destination weddings? How can I deal with this?

Anonymously: You can say no.

People are welcome to get married at diamond-encrusted altars on remote islands and insist their guests charter dolphins to get there. What they can’t do is spend other people’s money on their behalf.

The guests can always say no.

So destination weddings are not at fault here. Your sister is to blame, non-refundable, for making your plans for you.

Be kind and unequivocal when reiterating your decision not to go: “I’m sorry to hear you did this, because I still don’t plan to go.” (Unless you’ve since changed your mind.)

Unfortunately, someone who thought it was okay to spend your money on you might blame you for her own mistake – because she doesn’t see it as a mistake.

You also can’t stop her from taking out the resulting anger or frustration on your relationship.

But if your family’s pressure bothers you, know that your only weapon against it is to refuse to give in to it.

Sometimes figuring out the right thing to do involves projecting long term and deciding which unwanted consequence sounds more appealing to you.

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