Q. I have an issue that I need to bring to you.
I always felt that my daughter “Carol” (from my first marriage) isn’t really “mine.”
She was the product of a wife who cheated on me, and although my wife always swore that she was mine, I find that highly unlikely. I feel that Carol knows this, but we are both uncomfortable about bringing it up.
I was involved in her upbringing and accepted her as mine in her earlier years, but we just grew apart. I see her on Facebook from time to time and although she is now a grandmother, she seems unhappy — in a hidden way.
Carol’s mother died 20 years ago.
I think I have located her reluctant, biological father, but I don’t know if I should get involved because she may shun him, or she may be hurt because it’s been 50 years, now.
A DNA test will be the proof and I am scared that (1) this whole thing will be about a father who doesn’t want her, or (2) I may freak out and find that after 50 years she was mine all along. I wouldn’t want her to hate both men involved.
It could also lead to an unlikely happy ending.
How should I approach this?
A. One way to begin would be to try your hardest to build a relationship with your daughter. If she seems unhappy “in a hidden way,” then you could start by reaching out to her, checking in, finding out a bit about her adult life, and connecting with her children and grandchildren.
I assume that your own guilt and ambivalence about her possible parentage — and your implicit rejection of her — is keeping you away. You would feel better now if you acknowledged your own regrets and apologized for being so distant.
You could say, quite truthfully, that you and her mother had a difficult relationship, and that on some level you let your feelings of betrayal affect your ability to be present with her as a dad.
Do you have regrets? Admit them!
I don’t think it’s wise to connect your daughter with her supposed reluctant biological father, or to share your specific suspicions with her. Let her draw her own conclusions and make her own choices.
If at your core you want to find out if she is your biological daughter, you should be brave enough to ask her to take a DNA test. However, you have been prescient about the emotional risk involved to both of you. Pay attention.
Q. My husband and I have no children, but we have three nephews.
Two nephews live near us, so we’re in pretty close contact with them. One of our nephews has always lived in a different town. As a result, we only see him and speak by telephone on an infrequent basis.
My question involves how we should divide up our estate. I want to divide it into equal amounts, leaving one-third to each nephew. My husband thinks we should give more to the two nephews we have a closer relationship with. But if we do that, then how much is enough for the third one without hurting his feelings?
Do you have any suggestions?
IN A QUANDARY
A. In this situation, I vote for equal financial shares to all brothers.
If you had one particularly close nephew of the three, you might single that one out for an extra award, but in the scenario you describe, you would not be favoring one of the three, but excluding one of the three. I believe there’s a difference.
If you gave equal amounts to all three men, you could still pass along special and specific heirlooms or mementos to the nephews you know better.
Q. I have concluded that there is no point in dwelling on the negative aspects of people who fail to acknowledge my gifts. I mean, how much effort does it take to e-mail, “Thank you for your thoughtful gift (or contribution in my name), greatly appreciated” with no stationery or postage required — if only to reassure me that it was in fact received?
Rather, when a gift is not acknowledged, I just thank myself for having sent it and note this in my Contacts card for that recipient. Then I move on.
This also discourages me from repeating that mistake.
GRATEFUL FOR MYSELF
A. I believe you’ve inspired a few people today.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.