Dear Amy: My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My paternal grandmother was the only constant during that tough time.
We wrote each other letters and, especially through my tumultuous early teens, she was the one person I thought I could pour my heart out to when everything around me was constantly changing (moving house to house, and town to town).
My father remarried when I was 12, and the relationship between my stepmother and me has had its ups and downs over the years so that may be tainting my feelings on this, which is why I am asking your advice.
My grandmother passed away in 2014 at the age of 92 (I am 44).
My stepmother informed me this past Christmas (two years after her death!) that she and my Dad had read all the letters that my grandmother had kept that I had written her as a child/teenager. She asked me if I wanted to have them.
I didn’t know what to say at the time, except that those letters were written during some very hard times in my life and I didn’t want to read them right now. I have no recollection of what I said in them, but I was embarrassed that my private thoughts and feelings as a child had been laid wide open for two people I had not spent very much time with in my life.
It’s been a few months since this revelation and now I am very angry and upset.
Why would they read letters I had written to my grandmother without handing them over to me first?
Am I wrong to feel that my privacy has been invaded, in the extreme?
Did those letters belong to my grandmother? Should they be available for anyone to read after her death? Or should those letters have been given to me, unread, since I am still alive and I wrote them?
No More Letters
Dear No More: My understanding is that, legally, the letters you sent to your grandmother were her property – to show, sell or donate to a library. However, you, as the writer, would own the copyright; they could not be quoted from or published without your consent. So, after your grandmother’s death, you still own your thoughts and expressions, but her estate owns the letters themselves.
I am currently going through my mother’s house (these chores can take years). If I found a bundle of letters written to her by my daughter, I would definitely read them. However, your question does bring up the sensitivities involved. And so, yes – as a parent, I would read them, but should I? Probably not.
Your father and stepmother don’t seem to have shared any comment or judgment about these letters. Either they are being sensitive to you now (in offering to return them to you without so much as a peep), or perhaps your letters aren’t as revealing as you remember them to be.
Dear Amy: Long story short, it turns out the guy I was seeing is still married.
I gave him an earful already. I’ve been cheated on before, and both times the “other women” told me. This allowed me to understand the truth of those relationships and I appreciated it.
I feel like telling the wife is the right thing to do, but on the other hand, I don’t want to get involved with drama, and while I was thankful to the other women for telling me the truth, who knows what his wife’s reaction will be?
Dear Conflicted: If you have faced this situation from the other side, and appreciated a disclosure, then you should move forward on the assumption that this man’s wife might feel the same way. You believe this is the right thing to do, and so you should do it.
No – you do not know how she will respond. This uncertainty is the price you will pay for getting involved with a snake.
Dear Amy: “Wedding Worried” described her irritation at being her friend’s maid of honor. I did this, too. I was a lightning rod for my bride’s irritation about everything, and everything irritated her.
On the day of the wedding, she was awful. Everything went off as planned, and afterward she said she didn’t know why, but I irritated her during that time. She said she was sorry for how she behaved. We’re still friends.
Dear J: Being a maid of honor is a tricky and thankless form of friendship hellfire. At least you got thanked.
Email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.