Feel free to live your life sans stepmother
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • My father married a woman 20 years younger than he. Since he passed away two years ago at 84, his widow hasn't invited us over to the house I grew up in, and she has had extensive work done on the house. She sent my daughter a card for her birthday, but nothing else. When my nephew visited, she dropped off cookies and a gift for his kids, but left because she didn't want to drive in the rain. She accepts dinner invitations, always comes on Thanksgiving, and occasionally pays. I always thought she married my dad for his money, and she insisted that he leave her everything; my dad told me that. My dad left my brother and me a small insurance policy. She showed no affection toward my dad when he was dying of lung cancer, and she gave him so much morphine that he lost consciousness. She told me point-blank there wouldn't be any treatment, and joked after he died about "getting the evidence out the door." I think she's evil, but she camouflages herself as a super-religious churchgoer. She recently declined an invitation to dinner because her cat has asthma. Writing this, it should be obvious. I wonder if I am just biased against her. How does one handle a person like this?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous • I might just use "the cat has asthma" when I need an excuse, and I don't have a cat. The only answer is a general and rather sad one, that there's really nothing to "handle"; she apparently does not see herself as part of your family beyond a rather superficial sense of duty. Maybe she did use your father — your dad's remark about the will is certainly damning — and maybe too there was more love between them than you were able to see, but, either way, I'm not sure how that's relevant now. Since you plainly dislike her, I'd say you're overdue to release her from the last few family obligations. And expectations. I see why you're concerned about bias, but I think it's moot. You have your life, she has hers, and they needn't overlap unless you want them to. Done. If you feel it honors your father to keep her in the dinner-Thanksgiving loop, then do. If that hurts more than it helps, then don't.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.