Q. During the pandemic, I started exploring my genealogy and recently found out that I have a half-sister, “Barb.” We have the same father. Barb was put up for adoption as an infant. Our father passed away without divulging her existence.
Barb and I have been in touch and are sharing information about our lives. I recently discovered letters written by Barb’s biological mother to our father during her pregnancy. Most of the letters are very loving, and detail what seems like a caring relationship between two very young people who were teenagers and impoverished students who were not ready to raise a child.
I have shared some information in the letters, and would like to share more. However, the letters are not all good. Adoption was not the first plan for this pregnancy, if you get what I mean.
Should I give the letters to Barb? Should I weed out the unsavory ones? Should I just give her a couple of letters that detail the love her biological mother had for her new baby and the love these two people had for each other? They are very poignant and heart-felt.
Barb has had a very stable, loving upbringing with her adoptive parents and told me that she never felt like she was missing anything by not knowing her biological parents.
Now that she is taking this journey, I thought she might want to have these letters, but I don’t want to cause her any harm, either to her or to our budding relationship.
A. The isolation due to the pandemic seems to have brought on lots of DNA searches and closet-cleanouts.
I often advocate for liberating people from family secrets — those deeply held secrets that generations conspire to hold close.
Your situation does not qualify as a family secret (you’ve already uncovered and disclosed the truth, and have connected with your sibling), but this falls into the: “What good would be served?” category.
Sharing a private letter from many decades ago where two very young people discussed the prospect of ending a pregnancy seems pointless. “Barb” might have already assumed that terminating the pregnancy was considered before her biological parents decided on adoption.
I don’t quite know what you consider “unsavory,” but I don’t think you should share anything unsavory, unless the information disclosed would have an impact on Barb’s physical health.
Q. My long-time partner and I both read your column. Among our issues is his unending interest in “death and dying” TV programs that are so disheartening to me. I can leave the room, but I can still hear all the gory details that I don’t want to hear. It also seems unhealthy to watch these programs so often.
He says I am being unfair, and I say he is unfair. It’s a downer to hear so many of these sad programs, but he says it’s very interesting.
Are there any compromises you can suggest that will keep us from having this unending disagreement?
A. I assume you are referring to various “true crime” shows (like “Forensic Files,” which runs — episode after episode — every afternoon and evening on a cable channel near you). I know about these shows because I listen to them (I get television programming on my radio).
Yes, if you are not into them, these shows are depressing and gruesome. It is especially disheartening to learn how often the victims of these crimes are women and children.
The appeal of some of these shows is that, in the end, the perpetrator is always eventually caught. Justice is served. The loop is closed, and an armchair investigator can try out their own theories.
In forensic-based programs, the processes used to solve the mystery are also fascinating, in a Sherlock Holmes sort of way.The compromise is for your partner to wear earphones (connected to the TV) so that you can be spared having to hear programs that you find upsetting.
Q. I find the range of people’s actions and responses to the pandemic surprising and fascinating. I read somewhere that the best response to nearly any conflict is to express one’s own fear and vulnerability, including the specific words, “I’m doing the best I can.”
Personally, when I’m dealing with a difficult encounter with anyone (of any age), I think to myself: “They’re doing the best they can.” It’s a great tool to bring down the tension and stop the judging.
ANNETTE IN COLORADO
A. This is perfect. Thank you.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.