Granddaughter knows truth about "wonderful father"

DEAR ABBY: When I was 11, my parents and I moved near my grandparents. I loved them very much. One day, my grandfather offered to take me for a ride around the countryside, and we jumped in his pickup truck to explore.

When we started our ride, he had me move over as close as I could to him. Then he popped open a beer and handed it to me to drink. I had never tasted beer before. As we traveled down the road, he slipped his hand under my shirt and proceeded to feel my breasts. This happened three or four times on different days. He then tried to move his hand down into my pants. I resisted. After that, I never went for a ride with him again.

I have been through therapy to deal with this, but I have been unable to move on. My mom and her sisters think he was a wonderful father. She and two of her sisters have always had problems with men. I have always suspected that he abused them also. Should I confront them about this or just let it go? It haunts me to this day.

— PAST BUT PRESENT IN FLORIDA

DEAR PAST: I do not think it would be appropriate to "confront" your mother and your aunts about what might have happened to them. I do, however, think you have every right to tell them what your grandfather did to you during those "joyrides." If your suspicions about them are true, you should never have been permitted to go with him.

When you talk to them, do not be surprised if they try to minimize what happened, but you may find it therapeutic to speak openly. Family secrets like this are unhealthy for everyone.

DEAR ABBY: I have some friends — a married couple — who are very dear to me but who drain me emotionally. The husband has been disabled for well over a decade. Although they have a home care nurse, the wife is his primary caregiver.

I know their situation is horrible, and I have offered my help only to be refused. They won't let anyone help, yet the wife is always complaining that she has no help. The husband is very angry and nasty to her, and her behavior has become passive-aggressive toward him.

The only conversations we have anymore are about how horribly they are treated by the other one. It's like they're competing to see who is the bigger victim. The wife calls when she needs to vent, but vetoes any suggestions. We have a long history together, but it has reached the point where I dread talking to them. I hate to withdraw, but I am emotionally drained. What should I do?

— EXHAUSTED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR EXHAUSTED: It's time to tell these unhappy people what you told me. They may not like hearing what you have to say, so be prepared.

Suggest the wife join a caregiver support group. The other members will relate to what has been happening and may be able to offer her some suggestions. The husband is angry because his life hasn't turned out the way he had planned, but that doesn't mean he has a right to abuse her. A licensed marriage and family therapist might be able to help them repair their damaged relationship if it isn't too late.

And while you're at it, tell them that unless they stop dragging you into their dysfunction, for the sake of your own mental health you will have to have less to do with them. It's the truth.

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