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KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox Coping with mother's death, father's remarriage

Friday, July 1, 2005

Dear Annie: My mother passed away last December, after an illness that lasted several years. My parents were married for 46 years, and Dad took care of Mom in their home. During this time, my father had an affair with their housekeeper. He claims he was lonely. He married the housekeeper exactly two months after Mom died.
My mother's wish (unfortunately, not in writing) was to share with her five children any money left over from the sale of her home. That didn't happen. Dad refused to sell Mom's house during her illness, which would have enabled us to use the money to help care for her. Instead, he sold the house when he married his new wife, and the money now belongs to the two of them.
I am having lots of trouble dealing with the idea of my father and another woman spending my mother's money. Especially someone who betrayed Mom while she was still living. My father didn't grieve for Mom, and he certainly didn't give me any time to start healing before he found me a stepmother.
I will never accept this marriage. I talked to Dad and bluntly told him how much I disapproved of his actions. He is 70 years old, but he's behaving like a teenage boy. Am I the one with issues, or is he? Heartbroken Oldest Daughter
Dear Daughter: We know this is hard for you. Try to understand that your father mourned for your mother the entire time she was dying -- a process that took years. By the time of her death, he had finished his grieving. Did the housekeeper take advantage of his fragile state? Possibly, but she also makes him happy.
We aren't asking you to like the woman, but please forgive Dad for being human. Try to accept the marriage. We guarantee you won't feel any better if you are estranged from your only living parent. Our condolences.
Dear Annie: One of my co-workers thinks I am her private ATM. Every couple of months, she asks me for pocket change so she can get a snack or soda. We're not even friends. In fact, she never asks those co-workers she is close to. And she has never paid me back. How do I let her know that I am not a cash station? Out of Pocket Change
Dear Out of Pocket: By not acting like one. The next time she asks for money, say, "So sorry, but I don't have a dime to spare." Repeat as needed.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Former Teacher's Pet," the graduate student who had an affair with her professor. I am sure there are policies at this university regarding faculty-student relationships. And, in all probability, these policies state that the professor should have shifted his position as her adviser to some other faculty member. Because he did not, and he now is exacting retribution, he not only is in violation of his institution's policies, he is in violation of federal sexual-harassment laws.
My institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a well-developed system to deal with sexual harassment. Contact information is posted throughout the university, as well as on our Web site. "Teacher's Pet" also can ask the department secretary or dean's office for specific advice regarding her rights and the steps she needs to take. I do not recommend she talk with her harasser, especially by herself. That may result in more harassment or the quick covering of his tracks.
Getting a graduate degree is difficult enough without adding this type of stress to her life. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Dr. Hanley-Maxwell: Thank you for improving our answer. We hope "Teacher's Pet" and any other victim of sexual harassment is taking notes.
XE-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox™, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.
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