I could use some advice on the best response to my 89-year-old father’s letters. He cleverly inserts insults into them without writing anything for which he could be criticized.
For example, he has always talked about how he hates fat people. I am very overweight. My father sends me letters talking about how fit and trim another relative is who had just visited. That’s all he says about them, and it’s all he writes to me about. I can certainly read between the lines.
This isn’t a one-time thing, just one example. I know my father will never change. He was abusive to me, my siblings and my mother. I see these letters as another way for him to continue his abuse, so I ignore them. Not engaging is my way of taking the high road. Extended family and friends bug me to talk with him about it, but I have never had a good experience with talking to my father.
I would have hoped that being closer to death would cause him to reconsider his interactions with his children, but he just isn’t able to do so. Could you recommend a response other than silence?
From Des Moines, Iowa
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What your father is doing is very abusive and insensitive. Considering how he has treated you in the past, I think it is your job to make his last years the worse ones in his pathetic life. Here are some options you should consider. Write a letter to him naming some people around his age that you want to see live until they are a hundred, excluding his name. If he is currently in a nursing home, try to get him so angry, that he throws a punch at you. If your reflexes are fast enough and he misses, he’ll fall, and at the very least he’ll shatter a hip. Also to be sure that he slips and tumbles to the ground, initiate the confrontation on newly waxed floors. Test the capacity for his heart to explode by bringing you mom into it. If your mother is no longer alive, allege that she never loved him, had numerous affairs, and you liked all of her boyfriends a lot more than you like him. And finally, tell him that if he continues the subtle insults, sometime in the near future when he goes to sleep, you’ll transport him to conveyer belt at a crematorium, after you shampoo his hair in lighter fluid. I hope this helps.