Shout-out to my fellow quadragenarians!

Dear Amy: My father has realized his memory is failing and is using this to whitewash his questionable parenting skills.

Now I have no closure or recourse on events like his racist outburst of 2012 that led me to a very awkward Thanksgiving in a house full of people I did not know.

My dad will even see if his partner remembers an incident, and if she doesn’t remember, then it definitely didn’t happen; but she is apt to ignore it like it didn’t happen just to move off the subject.

I don’t need an apology (not that it would come), but it is just a new insult on top of an old one.

It makes me resentful when he literally says I must be wrong because:

    1. Both of them don’t remember.
    2. One of them doesn’t remember. Or, 
    3. Both remember, but act like they don’t.

My past has been check-mated by insecure septuagenarians. There is nothing I can do, is there?

– Manipulated S

Dear Manipulated: Here is something you can do: Understand – deep in your bones – that “closure” is not something another person can grant you.

In fact, the very concept of closure and the chasing of closure is something of a red herring. Closure is a distraction, keeping you from doing the work you need to do in terms of accepting reality: (“My father is a racist. But I can’t help him to change what he won’t admit.” “My father was a poor parent. Confronting him about this is useless, because he denies it.”)

Now that his memory is fading, the past will be mutable, and he will cling to his version just as you cling to yours.

If it helps you or feels good for you to continue to confront him with the truth that only you will admit to, then keep trying.

Unfortunately, confronting him seems to lead to frustration and more distress for you, and so maybe it’s time to stop. (c) 

Wow! Got to dodge those insecure septuagenarians! 😮 HA HA! That’s hilarious. Like sinister centennarians or awful octogenarians.

I daresay that I don’t understand, first of all, why the letter writer hasn’t raised these issues prior to now?

Now I have no closure or recourse on events like his racist outburst of 2012 that led me to a very awkward Thanksgiving in a house full of people I did not know.

If that’s the worst thing he did to her, then she doesn’t have much of a case against him here; but, I’m not assuming that that was the worst. Obviously, racism isn’t good, but sexual abuse, physical abuse, or parental neglect, etc., etc., are worse than a racist outburst.

I sense that the racist outburst was one of his major sins, because she refers to it as the racist outburst of 2012, which is just as hilarious as the nonexistent nonagenarians thing. As such, she might want to be grateful that she wasn’t abused or harshly mistreated. While I’m sure it’s not great to grow up with a racist parent, I can’t help but wonder why the letter writer can’t make a better case against him than that. I’m not trying to make racism sound okay. But I’d rather bear witness to a racist rant than to experience child abuse.

Moving on, I think whitewashing is done due to guilt, remorse, or regret. Otherwise, wouldn’t this flagrant racist just own it? “Hell yeah, I’m a badass septuagenarian! You got a problem with that?”

She (guessing at the gender) signed herself Manipulated S, but this seems like low-level manipulation at best. Her dad’s take might be, “Gee, quit shoving all this stuff in my face!” Even if he’s not remorseful, there should still be a statute of limitations on harassing someone for their bad behavior, and we know the racist issue was nine years ago. And the worst effect it had on her was to make Thanksgiving awkward. If she were a blogger, it would’ve given her some blogging fodder! Something for her to think about. Dysfunction makes for great blog posts.

I don’t need an apology (not that it would come), but it is just a new insult on top of an old one.

Well, that’s the problem with racism. People who are racist believe they’re right! They’re not going to apologize! It’s likelier that someone would apologize for losing their temper or saying things they didn’t mean. But racism is a consciously chosen act, unlike doing something bad on accident and then regretting it.

Furthermore, the letter writer isn’t traumatized. She tells us she’s insulted. Okay, let’s get some perspective here. Being insulted is, again, far preferable to being abused and traumatized. The more I think about it, the more irritated I am with this letter writer. People get old! They forget things! And yet she’s making her dad’s memory loss about herself. (I get that he might be pretending not to remember, but some of his memory loss must be legit. You can’t wholly fake that sort of thing.)

So, I think the letter writer just needs to get over it, or to just accept that it’s not a huge deal. Surely no one blamed her for the racist outburst of 2012. It’s common knowledge that racist behavior can only be attributed to the racist in question. And come on. We’ve all had bad Thanksgivings.

My dad will even see if his partner remembers an incident, and if she doesn’t remember, then it definitely didn’t happen; but she is apt to ignore it like it didn’t happen just to move off the subject.

Right, because memory loss isn’t something to torment someone about. Duh. Also, there’s no reason to put the dad’s significant other in the middle here.

Unfortunately, confronting him seems to lead to frustration and more distress for you, and so maybe it’s time to stop.

Amen! Hey, I’ve gone to dinner parties where my mother wasn’t on her best behavior. No, really, Meg? Tell your readership something they don’t already know. Here’s the thing: I have a short memory and don’t harass her about such events years later. But interestingly, there was one party where she was really poorly behaved, and I later came to suspect that she was freaking out about age-related cognitive decline. She claims to have memory loss. I believe her, but fortunately, there are no major issues of note. But before she had her stroke/TBI/seizures, she was worried to death about memory loss. After, she just decided to own it and tell everyone her memory’s going, and so now she’s not a stress mess about it anymore. She’s quite the savvy septuagenarian.

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