By Alma Gill
Dealing with an Absentee Mother
My best friend and college roommate grew up without her mother. She was raised by her father and they had a very close relationship. She shared with me that her mother left because of some unfortunate circumstances but has never gone into detail. I do know that her mother did not play a role in her life. She did not pick her up for visits or spend any time with her. It was like she just vanished. Her father just recently died, and she found out that he had two insurance policies and she called the insurance company to get the information. When she did, she was told the beneficiary was her mother. After 20 years, they never divorced, so her mother was entitled to the money. I told her she should sue her and get the money from her dad’s insurance. If she couldn’t take care of her daughter, she doesn’t deserve that money. My friend was left everything else, his car and his house. The house is in need of repairs and if she could get that money from her mother she would be able to take care of some things. She will probably end up selling the house and she is very upset about that. I told her she should sue and confront her mother. What do you think Alma, do you think she’ll win her case?
Dear Mama Drama,
What do I think? I’m so glad you asked. That leads me to believe there’s some room here for us to agree and agree to disagree. I agree she should try to reconnect with her mother. I disagree on the approach. Confronting someone is such an agitated act; searching for a non-confrontational conversation is more of what I have in mind.
I’m sorry your friend was unable to have her mother in her life when she was growing up. There’s no excuse for that. But you and I both know there are three sides to every story –his side, her side and the truth. Sometime the truth hurts, and the truth of the matter is, her dad left the money to his wife and everything else to his daughter. There’s no need for a lawsuit. One could ask, does she deserve it? Well, her husband thought she did and that’s all that matters.
This is a very tough time for your friend. It’s one of the toughest she’ll experience in her life. She is in need of a sacred place. Losing a parent has lasting effects and can leave you empty and broken for years to come. The best thing you can do for her is apply your comments to the positive side of this situation. Reassure her of the love her father had for her and remind her, even in the most difficult of times, he didn’t forget her mother. She might be hurt and totally disagree, but there’s no mistake that it’s admirable on the part of her father.
Parents have confidential conversations that they never share with their children, and that sounds like what happened here. Maybe her parents agreed her mother would leave the relationship for whatever reason and it has gone unresolved all this time. If there were dozens of days of disrespect, then daddy, I’m sure, would have certainly made a change to his insurance policy. He didn’t. Choosing a beneficiary is not a small feat. When he did so, he didn’t wish, wonder or assume. He made a conscious decision and he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation.
Like Clover said to Grover, “this issue is over.” There’s nothing your friend should do about it, but respect it and move on. She should also use her father’s last life gesture to reach out to her mother. You never know what that discussion may bring. Both are feeding unanswered questions and allowing the weeds of misunderstanding to grow. It’s time for healing. She can’t have another conversation with her father, but she can with her mother.
Encourage her to extend a non-judgmental hand of forgiveness to her mother and if it’s not reciprocated, so be it. She can live a full life knowing she did all that she could to reconcile with her mother. Don’t encourage her to take her mom to court; that’s ugly and it don’t look good on you. Be a good friend who listens and consoles. As her best friend, it’s your job to lift her soul, not damage it.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.