Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: Our elderly father has had long-term, concurrent relationships with multiple women in the same city for many years. It seems clear that the women are not aware. Each acts as if she is his main companion. We respect our dad's decision to lead his own life and have no judgments of him that he chooses to have multiple partners. However, we are uncomfortable with his deception regarding his partners and have had related conversations with him about this. He made it clear that he will not make any changes to how he handles these dynamics. This puts us in awkward situations -- for example, when they ask us questions about why they don't see us more often or why they can't visit him during his occasional hospital stays. Of course, we encourage them to ask him questions instead of us. These women are nice and kind and we enjoy being with them (although this does not happen much because we don't want to be in the middle). We wonder what to do in the event of a significant health issue and how to handle the convergence of the companions at his eventual funeral/memorial. (He has suggested separate funerals.) It seems like all of them would want to continue some form of relationship with us after he dies. We would value your opinion and recommendations.
Concerned Adult Children
DEAR CHILDREN: You are doing a very good job of maintaining boundaries between your father's multiple deceptions, versus your responsibility to maintain them. When a similar situation happened in my own life (multiple people arriving at the ICU claiming to have a special relationship with my family member) hospital workers told me they see this frequently. If it had been up to me I would have said to welcome everyone. Unfortunately, one result was that no one was permitted to visit.
You are not your father's gatekeeper and you are not responsible for maintaining his multiple deceptions. Tell him you will never lie to any of these women. Nor do you need to explain or interpret his behavior to any of his partners.
If he wants to plan and pay for multiple funerals to continue this deception after his death, then you might be able to respect his wishes. If he is not willing to plan and finance this, then you should welcome everyone to a celebration of his complicated life. Do not make choices between people that your father isn't willing to make.
DEAR AMY: My daughter is getting married and I have a dilemma: She wants me and her father, who have been divorced for 10 years, to walk her down the aisle together. We are both remarried, he has a baby with his new wife and we had a very stormy marriage: lots of infidelity and abuse from him to me. I have forgiven him and we have a peaceful, civil relationship, yet this walking her down the aisle together feels wrong to me. Your take?
Mother of the Bride
DEAR MOB: It is fairly common for both parents to walk a bride down the aisle (and I think this practice is preferable to a father "giving away" a daughter to another man).
You have done an admirable job of forgiving your ex-husband for his behavior during your marriage. Both of you accompanying your daughter down the aisle at her wedding (while your respective spouses wait for you in the front pews) could be a very powerful experience for all of you, but especially for your daughter. Children who grow up in chaotic and divorced families are often very eager for peace and reconciliation -- you and your ex would be demonstrating that this is possible.
DEAR AMY: I'm responding to the letter from "Respectfully Disrespected," the 19-year-old who was going through gender transition and whose parents were struggling with it. I appreciated your response, but would add that it's not a bad idea to wait a few years for the gender reassignment surgery. That is a very drastic step, even if you are sure you want it (says the 59-year-old woman who never got her ears pierced).
DEAR UNPIERCED: I agree with your caution.