DEAR AMY: I am estranged from my father. This came about after I confronted him about his molesting and physically abusing my sister and me when we were children. He admitted he may have hit me a couple of times, but denied that he molested us. He said that I should see a psychiatrist. My sister told me that our father was thinking of cutting me out of the will. He cautioned her to stay away from me. I believe my father is a narcissist, and understand it is hard for him to own up to the fact that he molested us. Still, it is extremely creepy that he tried to gaslight me, and I do not want anything to do with him, since he clearly does not have my best interest in mind. The problem is that he is taking care of my mother, who has some health and memory issues. I would like my young children to spend more time with her. My mother and my kids love each other. Now that my mother is trying to make amends for her less-than-ideal parenting, I also would like to try to connect better with her before she dies. My father’s omnipresence makes me hesitant to call, not to mention visit. Do you have any suggestions for how I can keep in contact with my mother?
DEAR CONUNDRUM: I’m taking your account of this at face value, and so the first thing to realize is this: If what you say about your father is true, the monster who would molest and abuse his daughters is also the guy who would deny that it happened. The two behaviors seem to fit neatly together.
Your father is correct in one regard. You should definitely see a therapist. Start your search by calling or online chatting with a counselor at the RAINN.org hotline. A counselor can direct you toward local resources.
Your father’s intimidating presence as your mother’s gatekeeper puts him in a further power position over you. If you are able, you should steel yourself and simply determine not to give him that power. Don’t let the prospect of disinheritance manipulate you.
Call and visit your mother when you want to, doing your best to minimize contact with him. Take your mother on outings with your children to get her out of the house (don’t ever leave your children alone with your parents, obviously).
DEAR AMY: I am a very youthful 64-year-old widower. My wife died two years ago. I feel ready for female companionship. I know several single women I could ask out, but how do I tactfully ask for (for instance) a single, unpretentious dinner date without them reading too much into it? I would like to get out of the house, enjoy dinner and some conversation. I want to play a wide field. I might call the woman back in a few months, but not a few days. This is perfectly acceptable with my guy friends, so why would it be different with women? I want any woman to understand that I might enjoy her company but that she should not expect contact (or another date) until the wheel spins and her name comes out on top.
DEAR FRIEND: The magic of relationships is that, no matter how hard you might try, you cannot guarantee that your motives or methods will be understood. You are trying to assure yourself an outcome that life rarely delivers.
You should do your best to state your intentions clearly: “I want to let you know up front that I am not really interested in a big-time relationship, I’m just trying to get used to casually dating.”
Understand that your game show wheel metaphor doesn’t necessarily apply to relationships. The women you’re interested in casually dating might not be available (or interested) in waiting for their name to come up in order to spend time with you every few months, but the best way to find out is to practice and refine your technique as you go.
DEAR AMY: I loved your suggestions to the “Atheist Godfather,” who wondered how to be both an atheist and a godfather. And then you blew it when you noted the “tenants” of the church. Amy, the correct word is “tenets!” Get a proofreader!
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: If I ever wonder about how many people read my column, making an error is a great way to find out. Hundreds of readers corrected this mistake. I take responsibility for the error, and thank you all.