DEAR ABBY: I am a father of two girls. Both of them no longer see, talk to, or contact me. I'm divorced from their mother. She cheated on me after she went back to work and met a man she decided was her soul mate. That was 17 years ago. I haven't talked to or seen my ex in all those years, and slowly, both daughters distanced themselves from me until there was no relationship at all.
On Father's Day, my birthday, or Christmas I never hear a word from either one. I tried numerous times to be a father to them. My youngest was recently married and didn't invite me to her big wedding. I had been saving money over the years in case one of them needed help with a home or wedding.
I have to say I am hurt. What could I have done to be a father when they didn't want me in their lives? I talk to people, and they keep telling me stories similar to mine. Is this common?
- Rejected Dad Out West
DEAR DAD: Let me put it this way: It's not unheard of. Something called "parental alienation" sometimes happens in bitter divorces, when one parent poisons the children's minds against the other. If I had to guess the reason for it in your case, it would be that your ex didn't want the girls to know that the reason for the divorce was her infidelity.
There is nothing you can do about it now, because a mind-set and a pattern have been set. Had you insisted on counseling for you and the girls when you realized the distancing was happening, you might have kept the lines of communication open.
Things may improve one day when your daughters have children who are curious about meeting you, but in the meantime, for your own sake, please go on with your life and don't dwell on your disappointment.
Grandma clamming up at family gatherings
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 13-year-old girl who is blessed to have both sets of grandparents alive and healthy. Recently, my dad's mother has become very quiet and reserved at social events. She was never the "I need to talk to everyone" type, but at the last few family gatherings, she wouldn't involve herself in a long conversation with anyone. When my other grandparents tried to talk to her, her answers were curt, and it was obvious she would rather not talk.
At first we thought it was because of my baby cousin, who cried nearly every time my grandmother held her. Thankfully, that has stopped. Other family members have noticed her behavior, and we are unsure of what may be causing it.
- Silent Treatment in New York
DEAR SILENT TREATMENT: Your grandmother may be upset about something, and her refusal to talk could be her way of expressing her displeasure, or she may be having a personal problem she's not ready to discuss.
Because other family members have noticed and are commenting about it, your parents should tell your grandfather that the family is concerned and ask him for an explanation, because he may be in a position to shed some light on it.