My mother died suddenly. What now?

Q: My mom died suddenly about 10 years ago. I have a 13-year-old daughter with my dad. Her dad lost his wife and has been going through hard times since. My parents did not get along in most of their time together.

I brought up the topic of her being his girlfriend for the first time after he asked if he was the only father she had, and in a kinda-serious way. He told me she did not know I knew, and I thought this was odd.

I questioned him about her last name. He said his son just came out as gay. When I pointed out that my daughter is a lesbian and who knows her mother’s last name, she said that’s not the case. She said, “No, my mom, she’s like anything. I think my mom is dead in my heart and my brain.”

My dad moved out of state. We recently met a couple of his friends. They told me about the relationship. I confronted him. He told me there is nothing going on. I asked him if he didn’t want to see his daughter, and he said that has never been a thought for him. He said he couldn’t hurt her because I know what kind of man he is and what kind of man she can get away with it. I don’t want to upset her feelings because she did what I want all of us to do — she said it wasn’t right to lie and cheat.

Is it wrong to express how I feel in a way that could potentially affect her? Or do I have to accept what I’ve been told?

A: Your father was so charming and so charming his friends wouldn’t even check this out because they simply trusted him. It makes sense he would lie to protect his daughter, so you’re right not to trust his word.

But, how could you possibly trust him if he never acted like the first couple of years with his wife were anything but a sham?

You can’t. If he’s telling you there’s nothing going on with your daughter, then he has to either have done nothing or he has to be lying to you.

For all of your father’s charm, he clearly didn’t have the courage to tell you your mother was alive. Why risk your son finding out?

Because, sadly, he had to deny it, right? He may have been scared that he wouldn’t be able to escape his responsibility once your son found out he and his mom were married, but he should have realized that lying to yourself about something as glaring as your mother’s life isn’t going to fix that. This is harder than you may realize.

You must use your authority to reprimand him for his behavior. Do you really want your daughter to get away with lying?

No, you can’t answer that question by letting your father’s words slip away into the void.

You have to confront him — and he has to be held accountable for it.

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