Annie's Mailbox She wants a clean break from dirty family secret



Dear Annie: Do you think ostriches are emotionally healthy? I ask because I want to hide my head in a hole.
I come from a family with five adult children. Dad passed away a few years back, and, as I write this, Mom has been in the hospital for a month. Her hospitalization has caused an awkward reunification of the siblings.
During a lengthy phone call with my younger sister, she revealed that she and my youngest brother were repeatedly sexually abused by my oldest brother. Although I urged her to seek professional help, I am having difficulty digesting this 40-year-old information.
My relationship with my older brother hasn't been good for years. (He was a Vietnam vet, and I was a war protester.) Still, I always respected and looked up to him. Now, I feel the big brother I once loved is a sham.
I live in another state with a wonderful husband and two great children. I want to wash my hands of the lot of my siblings and the dirty family secrets they have kept. My mother, however, wants her family around her. I don't think she is aware of my brother's incestuous behavior, and if she did know, I suspect she put it away somewhere deep in the recesses of her memory.
Should I keep up appearances until my mother passes on (which could be in 10 years or 10 minutes)? This goes against every grain of my being. Should I confront my brother? Can I run away from home? Please help. Disillusioned Sister
Dear Sister: If you are 100 percent certain that your sister's accusations are true, you should confront your brother. But don't blame your other siblings for what happened. It is unfair to estrange them all because you are angry with one. And it would be self-serving and hurtful to create a family rift while your mother is hospitalized. You sound like an intelligent woman. Surely you can find a way to work through this without burying your head in the sand.
Dear Annie: I would like to comment on your advice to "Freakin' Out in Philly," who resented that her parents left the family business to her brothers. She sounds like a victim of her own making.
If the sisters really want a piece of the business, why don't they act like businesswomen and approach their brothers about investing or becoming partners, instead of harassing their elderly parents about fairness? Parents often base such decisions on who they think would be most likely to carry on the business in the spirit in which it was created. Obviously, the sons are doing a good job if their wives and children are bragging about "living the good life." This woman needs to find a way to respect her parents' decision. Wife of an Inheritor
Dear Wife: Your perspective has merit, but so does this one:
Dear Annie: When I read "Freakin' Out's" comments, I thought I was reading my life story. We had a large family, and there never was money to help the girls buy cars, go to college or get started in a business. Curiously enough, there were tens of thousands of dollars for the boys to do those very same things. Several of my brothers became wealthy, living in huge homes with expensive cars, while two of my sisters still live in poverty. None of my brothers' wives likes my parents. I know they will not help care for them when their health begins to fail.
My life experiences have made me a better person. I try to make sure my children understand that I love them as they are. I never will be able to earn my parents' love, and there is some freedom in that. "Freakin' Out's" brothers are still tightly bound by their inherited business. I wish her the best. Better Off Without the Dough
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