While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Another adult's perspective on childhood bullying
D.C.: I had a bully who made my life miserable throughout junior high. I mean, I dreaded coming to school because I knew he would be there. He loomed large in all my memories of those years until I was in my 20s and ran into him on a street corner.
He was effusively friendly and asked me what I was doing. "I always thought you'd be a rocket scientist or something," he said. "You're the smartest person I've ever met." I had learned in the intervening years that his stepfather had regularly beaten the living $&!? out of him.
I was very happy to have met him again and have a chance to put all that stuff to rest. As a kid, I had no idea what was going on in his life and, honestly, probably wouldn't have cared. As an adult, I had gained some perspective and was easily able to forgive him. And it feels great not to be dragging that resentment around with me anymore.
On treading carefully when offering opinions
His Wife and Loving Partner: My husband was the victim of abuse as a young child. His mom and stepdad beat him with a leather strap until the welts bled through his clothing at school. His stepdad also would beat him until he fell to the floor, then kick him in the head with heavy boots. I deeply suspect my husband was also sexually abused, although he will not speak of that with me. The years of abuse were so lengthy and intense that he still experiences flashbacks now, 50-plus years later.
After his childhood my husband continued to have a relationship with his mom (then divorced from the stepdad) but many, many occasions of verbal and emotional abuse continued until, finally, about nine years ago, my husband gave up and withdrew from the relationship.
My husband, in his professional life, was a highly decorated public servant, a devoted volunteer to numerous causes. He is kind and resourceful in his ability to help others.
His mother is dying. Carolyn, you have no idea how many well-meaning people have told him to go see his mom one last time. Friends, relatives, neighbors, people he doesn't even know, who curse him out, insinuate he is heartless, call him names, send him things, and just generally claw his heart out about this whole thing.
We have known each other for nine years. During that time he has made tremendous strides, from deep depression to a happy confidence. But every time people attack him, or remind him about this, I see the pain dragging him down again, like quicksand.
I just want to plead the case for countless adults who choose, for their own personal reasons, not to have a relationship with a parent. Sometimes it is the best call. Sometimes it is no one's business but one's own. And sometimes it is more about healing than anyone else will ever know. Please have the decency to respect their decision, even if it is not the decision you would make. If you do not have to make this gut-wrenching decision, how very fortunate for you and yours.