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Letter from estranged 89 year old father asking for one letter a year

(44 Posts)
Shandy57 Thu 16-Sep-21 23:38:57

I haven't seen my Dad since 2000, twenty one long years. I'm now 64, he's just had his 89th birthday. He last saw my son when he was two, he's never met my twenty five year old daughter.

In 2010 I saw my Dad for the first time in ten years at my Uncle's funeral, and he said he'd be in touch. I waited and waited and months later my aunt, who still sees all of them, told me my Dad had given her a lift home. She asked if he'd contacted me and he said he 'wasn't going to bother' as it had been so long.

I did visit my aunt in 2013 and wrote to my Dad asking if he'd like to meet for lunch, he ignored my letter.

When my husband died in 2016, he did send me a sympathy card, and started to send birthday and Christmas cards with a short letter. He made references to the 'huge' widow's pension I'd be receiving from my husband's company. Unfortunately not huge enough to maintain my house and the bills, I had to sell my house.

When I put my house on the market in 2018 he took an interest, and we corresponded a few times. In 2019 he moved into rented accommodation (he hadn't told me) and then bought the house next door to my brother and SIL, apparently she is now his 'cleaner' and I assume main carer. He didn't send me his new address, I had to ask my aunt for it. Knowing that my SIL will be in his house, and probably looking at everything, I didn't write any news in his 2019 Christmas card.

I didn't get a birthday card in April 2020, but did get a card Christmas 2020 sent via my aunt. I moved this March 2021, and know my aunt had given him my address but I didn't get a birthday card in April. I did send him a card on his 89th birthday this August.

It took me years to realise my Dad behaves like this because he has never loved me, and I'm sad he doesn't, but his parents were not loving either and he had a terrible childhood. When they went away on holiday, they put him in an orphanage for weeks on end. Now I've finally done the family tree he had eight aunts and uncles, completely absent from his childhood.

I know my brother and SIL will now be heavily involved in his life, and I cannot trust either of them. When my Mum was having her 12 hour 5% chance of success operation, they withdrew cash from her account, I found it in her bedroom. When I challenged them it was 'to cover her bills in case she died'.

I wonder if they are monitoring his post as they know my writing. I also wonder if anything he asks them to post to me is opened and destroyed.

I am wondering this because I've just received a letter out of the blue from my Dad asking why I persist in this 'Coventry' silence. He wants to see photos of the new bungalow and what I've done so far, which is nothing as I haven't managed to get any decorators in yet. He ends by saying 'it is up to you if you reply, I am hoping that asking for one letter a year is not asking too much'.

I don't want my brother and SIL to know my business, should I just write a general round robin type letter in reply?

CafeAuLait Thu 16-Sep-21 23:50:32

I'd say he loved you. That he contacted you regularly after your husband died suggests he was thinking of you and wanting to support in the way he knew how. Maybe he just wasn't good at showing it?

If you aren't sure he is getting your letters, can you phone him or visit in person?

Shandy57 Fri 17-Sep-21 00:02:29

Hello CafeAuLait, to my rescue again!

Nice of you to say that. One of the things he sent was the book 'Just You' by the late John Thaw's wife, which I assumed he'd read following his bereavement.

I haven't had his phone number for twenty years, and my aunt doesn't have his new number either. I don't know if he can hear well enough to use a phone?

Unfortunately he's 340 miles away so visiting isn't possible.

I'd included three lovely photographs of his late wife in his birthday card, he didn't mention them in the letter, I don't think he got it.

I think I might type a label and use a jiffy bag so it's not so obvious it's a letter.

VioletSky Fri 17-Sep-21 00:06:50

Every time he has contacted you he has mentioned money or property. That all makes me very uncomfortable.

If you want to reply you could use the grey rock method. Just general chit chat and no information you wouldn't want any of your family to know.

Or you don't have to reach out at all, he has ignored you reaching out in the last and made no attempt at contact for years at a time.

Take the course of action that brings you happiness and peace

Shandy57 Fri 17-Sep-21 00:32:54

He is obsessed by money VioletSky. When my Mum died and I queried the amount of my inheritance he said he 'allowed' my Mum have more of the house sale money when they divorced so she could buy another house - and it was his money, I was lucky to get any. Nearly every girlfriend he had lived in council accommodation, and he eventually moved in with one of them who later became his wife. He endured a broken window in the toilet for about five years, rather than repairing the window himself, because it was the 'council's responsiblity'.

And a major part of the misery of our childhood was because of his stinginess. I remember my shame at wearing a hand me down boy's cardigan to school, I was sure everyone would notice it buttoned up the wrong way.

He ranted about estate agents commission in the previous communications, and how I should wait for the right buyer who would pay the right price. Unfortunately he'd never had to carry wood up eighteen steps, I couldn't face another winter doing that but had to do it or I'd have frozen. He is also very superstitious and in my letter offered suggestions for changing my house number from 13 as it's so 'unlucky'.

I can't sleep so will draft out a grey rock, I might even scribble out the bungalow price, thank you for the suggestion.

CafeAuLait Fri 17-Sep-21 00:33:34

I think sending the book says something. When my child died, my MIL sent a card to my DH at Christmas saying 'thinking of you'. She didn't usually do that so I'm sure it indicated that she was aware it would be a hard Christmas for him and she wanted to offer something.

I agree that you don't have to reach out and I'm not sure what you can do to make sure your messages are received. In the end, I think you need to do whatever will give you the most peace when your father is no longer there. Maybe that's sending letters in the hope they are received?

EilaRose Fri 17-Sep-21 01:01:14

Interfering family members cause many family rifts to escalate into estrangement and you said you can't trust your brother and SIL, so I tend to agree that he's not receiving any mail from you.

I've been through the same with my two young DGD's who I'm sure weren't being given the gifts, cards, etc that I sent to them and now they are old enough to visit on their own, they probably don't know my address, and of course their parents wouldn't tell them, so I think your father might be in a similar situation.

Would your aunt hand deliver mail to him...does he visit her house where he could open mail from you and in turn your aunt could mail his replies? Just a thought! I know you said he lives 340 miles away but is there any chance you could visit and talk to him in person away from your brother and SIL (who I guess are worried about missing out on their (perceived) inheritance)...don't worry I've had to deal with that too, it seems to be the root cause with estrangment in a lot of cases.

Your father is not getting any younger and it sounds like he wants to make amends...I didn't know my father and would give anything to have that chance, so realise I look at this from a different viewpoint.

Good luck and I truly hope you can sort it out and give both you and your father some peace. flowers

welbeck Fri 17-Sep-21 02:24:29

why don't you just go and see him.

nanna8 Fri 17-Sep-21 02:36:44

I’d go and see him because you don’t know who is opening his letters. He is quite old now so I would see him whilst you still have the chance. I wouldn’t think he would be that interested in yours or anyone else’s money at his age. Best wishes to you.

Chewbacca Fri 17-Sep-21 04:28:46

I agree with CafeAuLait; I think, in his own way, he does love you Shandy. You say that he had a terribly unhappy childhood and we know, from the many posts here on GN that unhappy childhoods often leads to an unhappy and complicated adulthood that take a long time, if ever for some, to recover from. It seems that, although he loves you, he's been unable to show it but he has reached out to you now and it's only you that can decide if you want to accept that olive branch this late in the day. I agree with nanna8 that money is probably not why he contacted you; if it was, he'd be asking for far more than 1 letter every year! It would obviously be ideal if you could go and visit him in person but, if this is out of the question, EilaRose's suggestion of sending a letter to your aunt, so that she can hand deliver it to him, is a good idea. If you're worried about your nosy brother and SIL poking their noses into your business, just don't mention anything you don't want them to know.

This advice from CafeAuLait stood out for me: In the end, I think you need to do whatever will give you the most peace when your father is no longer there. Don't let your distrust of your nosy brother and SIL interfere with what you want to do Shandy; find a way around them.

BlueBelle Fri 17-Sep-21 04:56:59

Although 380 miles is a long way it’s not undoable at all why not visit and see for yourself
If he had the awful childhood you say he had he probably doesn’t know how to show love or even receive it
The fact that he didn’t like to spend money on doing jobs in the house means nothing I ve got jobs need doing I ve put off for years not because I m mean they just don’t seem important
I think he’s trying in the limited way he knows how so if he was my dad I give him the benefit of the doubt he won’t be around much longer will he won’t you feel better in the future to know you tried even if it doesn’t work

Whatdayisit Fri 17-Sep-21 06:41:45

I agree with other posters. If a visit is totally out of the question could your Aunt take a letter round?
Or could you send a letter recorded delivery?
Who posts the letters for your dad to you - he must be able to get out or I would assume your brother/sil wouldn't post it.
Maybe the lack of birthday card in April 2020 was because of the first lockdown.

It's hard because you seem to have come to terms with this difficult relationship and now the lack of communicating seems to be getting blamed on you. Which isn't fair. Is that to ease your dad's conscience as he faces the sunset of his life.

Without turning this onto talking about me which I dont mean to but often do. When my dad died last year the other half sibs(none of us full) did everything they could to exclude me. Even at the graveside the undertaker passed me by for throwing a bit of earth in. They were all so threatened by me in case I was going to try and challenge the will. I just let them get on with it. Its hurtful that you can't get te closeness but if it's not there it isn't.
I couldn't face the wake so instead i took my 3 children, who didn't receive a penny either, out for a meal because it had always been us and we had always been made to feel like the outsiders. You will feel the same your family is the ones who have always been there.
In my experience I felt after his death I had come full circle started life without him met him got to know him as an adult I didn't live up to his expectations got on without him and still getting on but without him sitting in judgement.
I am not wracked with any kind of misplaced guilt and you won't be either because you have done the best you can and the relationship is what it is.
And excuse my twittering on further but have you seen Elton John's RocketMan? His relationship with his father seemed similar and it affected him. In the titles at the end there is a part written - and this isn't a quote of the top of my head - and he is loved and it means by his husband David Furnish and their children. It breaks my heart every time I watch the film.

Sorry I can't give you any advice other than your feelings are the most valid in this situation and after everything you have gone through you have to be kindest to yourself.

Why other family members see people as a threat is beyond me but probably rooted in money.

Smileless2012 Fri 17-Sep-21 09:04:23

I'm sure he loves you Shandy or he'd have never made contact with you at all.

Asking your aunt to take him a letter from you and/or 'phoning him are excellent suggestions.

CafeAuLait's advice is so on point "In the end, I think you need to do whatever will give you the most peace when your father is no longer there".

Focus on that Shandy and you wont be far wrong with whatever decision you make.

Hetty58 Fri 17-Sep-21 09:14:35

Shandy57, I really wonder how much he's received from you - as your brother and SIL may well be isolating him from contact. Don't let them control him.

He may love you dearly, but be totally incapable of showing it. His childhood sounded horrendous.

He's a very old chap now, anyway, so keeping up contact will benefit you. When he's gone, you'll know that you did your very best.

Polarbear2 Fri 17-Sep-21 09:28:38


why don't you just go and see him.

? simplest is best.

Hetty58 Fri 17-Sep-21 09:29:08

(nothing like as bad or on the same scale - but I remember exactly how we felt about being 'parked' at the cheapest available 'children's camp' while our parents holidayed. We were abandoned.

My mother wanted a break from us - not with us. At one, we wondered if we'd starve to death before they came back. We took to pocketing any leftovers from the breakfast table.

When you can't trust the very people who should love you, you grow to trust nobody, especially yourself.)

Whatdayisit Fri 17-Sep-21 09:36:20

Hetty58 that is so sad. ?

Baggs Fri 17-Sep-21 09:51:13

340 miles is not much really. Book into an Airbnb and go see him. He might have dementia; many people that age do and deafness doesn't help.

If you say 340 miles is too far you are just making excuses.

Whatdayisit Fri 17-Sep-21 09:58:54

I don't think that's fair Baggs their are plenty of reasons why 340 miles is too far. And visiting isn't always affordable.

glammanana Fri 17-Sep-21 10:10:11


340 miles is not much really. Book into an Airbnb and go see him. He might have dementia; many people that age do and deafness doesn't help.

If you say 340 miles is too far you are just making excuses.

You would never forgive yourself if you didn't visit your father and something happened to him.
Do you have a Senior Citizens railcard it will save you money in the long run,stay at Airbnb or Travelodge if one is in his area.

Newatthis Fri 17-Sep-21 10:34:55

I think he thinks that you are quite well off and he is trying to weedle his way into your life again. I would steer clear. from what you say, he has never been a father to you.

DiscoDancer1975 Fri 17-Sep-21 10:42:44

This doesn’t sit well with me. A case of too little too late. You sound content with your life outside of your father, brother etc. What do your kids think?

I think you have to do what brings you peace...and concentrate on those you know love you.

PinkCosmos Fri 17-Sep-21 10:54:43

Could you speak to your Aunt about the situation?

If she lives near to your Dad, maybe she could go to see him on your behalf and check things out.

Audi10 Fri 17-Sep-21 10:56:56

It’s all very little too late for me, I’ve read over the post twice and it doesn’t sit well, surely in all that time of you not seeing him he could have made some effort to see you, he does seem to mention money a lot, I’d go with what your gut feeling is telling you Shandy, best wishes

MayBeMaw Fri 17-Sep-21 12:12:31


I think he thinks that you are quite well off and he is trying to weedle his way into your life again. I would steer clear. from what you say, he has never been a father to you.

Possibly adding 2+2 and making 5 Newatthis ?
Like Baggs I feel 300 miles is not insurmountable, unless you have health and mobility issues yourself. Given OP’s father’s age it is unlikely to be a journey she would have to make too often.
OP says she did not get a card - things can get lost in the post, or indeed at 89 he may be absent-minded, in h experience some men are rubbish at remembering birthdays
This does seem to have gone on too long with, it seems, lack of communication on both sides.
Is it not time to bury the hatchet?