Dear Margo: My father passed away a few months ago. When I started dealing with his affairs and doing the required financial tasks, I realized he had left me an estate worth $1.5 million. My problem: I think about the money and almost feel like it's tainted. I don't want $1 million; I want my father. I'd rather he were still here, father to me and grandfather to my toddler. Logically, of course, I recognize that he left me a tremendous gift, but emotionally, I'm having a hard time accepting it.
And I do recognize that my feelings will seem absurd to most, especially in our present economic situation. I'm hoping that you will be able to give me some advice that will help guide me forward. -- Melancholy
Dear Mel: You are experiencing great sadness at the loss of what sounds like a wonderful man and a loving father. Let us apply the poultice of reason, however, to your thoughts. This situation is not one in which you had a choice. No one put the question to you: Would you like your father to live, or would you rather have the money? A lifetime is finite, and ever was it thus.
As for the inheritance being tainted, that would only be the case had your dad been a killer for hire or something similarly unlawful. I am fairly sure he earned this money in an honorable way, so there can be no taint. Neither did you wish him gone so you could have the estate. (That would not have made it happen, but it would be a cause for guilt.)
Give yourself a break, and try to look at things realistically. I can tell you that when the grief diminishes -- and it will -- you will feel more comfortable about having the nest egg your father wished for you. -- Margo, acceptingly
When Telling Has a Price
Dear Margo: When I moved away from home, my mom moved to another state that was closer to where her sister lived. I am going to visit my mom, but she and her sister have not been speaking for a while. That is because the sister's husband made an inappropriate advance toward my mom, which upset her greatly. She didn't feel right about keeping such a thing private, in case he was acting like this with other women. She eventually told her sister, whose response was that she did not believe any of it, and she hasn't talked to my mom since. She's also tried to keep her daughters out of my mom's life and is clearly in denial about the whole thing.
My mom has tried to work things out, but to no avail. I will be going to visit and, of course, would like to see my cousins, but I'm guessing they will invite their mother to come over while I'm with them. I don't want to hurt my mom's feelings by seeing her, but I also don't want to perpetuate this whole thing by refusing to see her. I'm torn as to how to deal with this, especially since we were all so close for so long. -- Living with an Estrangement
Dear Liv: If your mother's been cut off, I wouldn't be so sure your cousins will see you, let alone bring their mother. If I am right, then you'll have nothing to deal with! If there should be a get-together, just speak of neutral things. As for your aunt's being in denial, this is not all that unusual. If she allowed herself to believe it, she'd have to confront him or throw him out. It is clear she would rather stay peacefully married and think your mother made the whole thing up. -- Margo, realistically
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.