Ever since I dropped my subscription to the Washington Post in disgust (yes, the Times is better), I have been neglecting Carolyn Hax, the most consistently ethical advice columnist in captivity. I stumbled upon her latest column today, and my wife vociferously disagreed with my reaction to a question posed to her. I decided to make it an Ethics Quiz.
“Resentful” wrote that her father was widowed five years ago and remarried. She’s resentful that he keeps calling his second wife “Love of my life” in front of his adult children and his grandchildren. The daughter has “minimized contact with him as a result.” He’s hurt, and she wants to know what to tell him. “Quit [dumping] on the memory of my mother in my presence and you’ll see us more than twice a year” is what I WANT to say.”
The Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Is the daughter being fair to her father?
Hax, as usual, tries to talk the inquirer through the problem. Tell him, she says. “Even an unwelcome message is kinder than vanishing on him without explanation.” Then she tries to explain what might be going on from her father’s perspective. ‘You’re the one, not your dad, making the connection between his love-of-his-life swooning and “[dumping] on the memory of my mother,” she writes. “You had your own relationship with your mother and it is yours to treasure and grieve. Nothing your dad says or does now puts a dent in that.”
My reaction was a bit different: “Oh, grow up.” The woman’s father has a new relationship to work on. Maybe she’s insecure about being Wife #2. Maybe she needs reassurances and affirmation, as well as terms of endearment and unconditional love. She IS the love of his life right now; his previous wife is dead. Her feelings won’t be hurt. The daughter needs to be reasonable, and its up to her to explain granddad’s exuberance to her kids.
My wife said that if she dies and I remarry, and I call my new wife “Love of my life,” she’ll come back from the grave and kill me.