Dear Margo: After 29 years together, 26 of them married, my parents are getting divorced. My father has always been a functioning alcoholic who a few years ago ceased to function. His life was down to watching TV and drinking. My mother eventually tired of his refusal to do anything and his constant complaining when he actually had to leave the house. She moved in with me while looking for a new home and has never been happier in her life. She laughs, goes out, has a few drinks two nights a week with friends, and has even started dating. My father is devastated. He drinks more, calls my mother “to make sure she’s OK” and calls me repeatedly if she doesn’t answer the phone. He lies to my younger brother (who is away at school) and tells him she drinks too much and is never home. My brother is angry and resentful with my mother and me. My father is a train wreck — he has admitted he was unhappy before she left, but doesn’t understand why they shouldn’t be miserable together. I’ve begged him to talk to someone, but he “doesn’t want to air their dirty laundry.” My mother tries to keep me out of the middle, but my father is determined to put me right there. In the process, he’s destroying our usually close family. I don’t know what to do. I love them both, but I’m being pulled in three directions!
— Tugged Too Far
Dear Tug: First, hurray for your mother. After 29 years with Jim Beam, she can at last have a life. Second, your brother, unless he was anesthetized while living at home, should know enough family history to take your word over your father’s, and if you’ve not set him straight, you should. About all you can do for your father is to tell him your mom is doing well, and now that his life is essentially ruined, he might want to consider getting some help of the AA variety.
The “dirty laundry” excuse won’t wash, pardon the pun. I believe you can end being the bird in a badminton game if you are firm in what you say. — Margo, perseveringly
Really Margo? The friggin’ birdie? What does that even mean? And in what way is getting smacked from all sides is better than getting tugged three directions? Her response is useless on multiple levels: it doesn’t make the writer feel better, it doesn’t give any concrete help and her metaphor totally falls apart (boooo!). Tell off/ignore everyone in the family? That will work well, especially since mom is living-in and dad won’t stop calling. And no suggestion of any support (friends? family? neighbors? clergy? counseling? Al-Anon?Journaling? Kick-boxing?) for this person who is clearly trying to remain the (only) stable hub in this family?
The evidence suggests this person is about my age, give or take a year or tow. Now, I don’t know much, but I know that if my parents suddenly split, my mom moved in with me, my dad was a wreck and my brother was abdicating all supportive duties by kicking and screaming in denial, I would need a LOT more guidance and a LOT more solace than Margo gives here. As Mr. Knightley says…..Badly done.