filthy lucre

Money just fucks everything up, doesn’t it? I am well acquainted with the constant anxiety of not having any — it was not too many years ago that we were in the middle of “there is $71 in our bank account right now and the car insurance is due, so thank god we have a credit card” — but it is news to me that the presence of money can be a problem as well.

I don’t think I’ve written much about my dad in this space. About twelve years ago he and my mom started what ended up being a really messy and drawn-out separation and divorce process. I really don’t want to get into that except to say that the divorce was caused by my dad’s infidelity and that he is now married to the woman with whom he was cheating on my mom. Not a new story, not a particularly interesting story, but painful all around.

My brother and I reacted very differently to what was going on with our parents. My brother has not spoken to my dad in probably ten years (I can’t be sure, but it’s likely that the last time they spoke was at my wedding). My dad has never met his grandchildren, my sister-in-law has never even spoken to her father-in-law, and my nieces don’t know they have another grandpa. My brother knows I still have a relationship with my dad and has asked me repeatedly not even to mention him or his kids. My dad doesn’t ask, I don’t offer, and there is this gaping hole in the conversations we can have.

My mom has been trying for years to get me to say … something … about my dad and how I feel about the whole mess. Honestly if I could figure out what she wanted me to say I would just fucking say it, but I don’t and so she keeps asking. And this is the worst part — I know that by continuing to see my dad and talk to him, I am continuing to hurt her. My brother has made the “right” choice and has sided completely and irrevocably with her, whereas I have been … I don’t know … insufficiently angry, maybe? I just don’t have it in me to cut him out of my life like my brother has done. When I talk to my mom or my brother I feel like a traitor, like a failure, like some kind of morally suspect foreign body.

And this is why I don’t post about this — I’m getting pretty far down the garden path here, and it’s hard for me to get my thoughts about it in order.
I’m going to try to get to the point here soon.

Recently my dad gave me some money. Like, a lot of money. Like, a lot of money.* He says he knows we can use it now and he doesn’t see the point of waiting till he’s dead to give it to me. I asked him if he wouldn’t rather set up some kind of a trust for the baby, but he said that sounded complicated and it was easier just to give it to me.

It is going straight into a new bank account to be the start of a college fund, but I know it doesn’t really belong to me.

Half of it belongs to my brother.

My husband and I are in total agreement that however angry my brother is, however dirty this money would seem to him, his kids deserve a boost in their college funds too.

So here’s where I need some advice. We are going to be seeing my brother for Christmas, and I want to bring him a check for half of the money at that time. But I REALLY, REALLY don’t want to ruin the whole visit by fighting about this money the whole time, so I feel like I need to talk to him about it in advance just so he’s prepared. But I also don’t want this to be the final straw that makes him decide to cut me out of his life too.

What on earth do I say?

I have been putting this conversation off for several weeks now, and we are getting closer and closer to Christmas and I just can’t figure out how to bring it up. My husband and I agree that if my brother refuses it (which is a possibility), we will hang on to it and make a gift to each of our nieces when they turn 18. I just don’t want to fight about it. I’m so tired of fighting.

* I know we all have different ideas about what constitutes “a lot.” This definitely qualifies for me.



15 responses to “filthy lucre

  1. Would it help to just ask if he has time to talk and then say something like, “Look, there’s something really important I have to say and then we can drop the subject, okay? I promise it’ll be quick, so please, hear me out. We both know Dad fucked up big time and nobody wants to hear from him or see him. But he recently came out of nowhere and gave me a lot of money. “An early inheritance,” he called it. And you’ve had to put up with his shit too, so you deserve half of it. I know you probably don’t want to take it, but it would be a great boost for your daughters’ college funds. You don’t have to ever tell them where it came from. Please think about it and let me know what you want me to do.”

  2. First off, thanks for your awesome comment on my post. You inspired my hope and made my day! Even if there is no wonky rule about contacting me, I am going to pretend that there is :).

    As for this situation, how does your dad feel? Where does he want the money to go? He may not want to give money to the children of a son who turned his back on him. I think that since it is your dad’s gift, you should honor his wishes to some degree about what he wants done with it. I don’t like the idea of giving any of it to your brother. (and what if he doesn’t use it the way you think he should? What if he just buys a new car or something? Wouldn’t that be horrible?) I think that it is a GREAT idea, though, to just steward the money yourself (also, COMPLICATED. Stocks? Which ones? Etc.) and use half of it for your nieces’ tuition when the time comes.

  3. p.s. I also feel bad for you and your dad to have to go through this painful situation. Although cheating is never “right”, your dad has his own life to live, and it is not his fault that he fell in love with this other woman while he was still married to your mom. I understand being angry about how he handled it, but I am sure he was confused about things himself, at the time! I can’t imagine that any of this was easy for him, or that any of his actions were malicious. I’m glad that you didn’t give in to your mom’s pressure to “take her side”!

  4. Oh, what a tough situation. I have no good advice for you, but I can tell you that my sister raiding my dad’s (who is still alive but on disability) every source of funding has created a lot of tension for my brother. You’re doing the right thing, but I can’t guess how your brother will feel.

  5. I can’t find your email address! Agh!!! Oh well, floating this out in the blogosphere.

    My father cheated on my mother. My brother and I are estranged from him (for more reasons than just the cheating) and my sister is not. My sister also doesn’t speak to my mother though, so I guess it’s a little different, but we have the same gaping holes you described. Anywho, if my sis were to receive money from my father, I would not be upset if she came to me and offered me a portion of it. I honestly don’t know if I would accept it or not, BUT if I were to have rejected it and she went ahead and created funds for my kids with it, I would be straight up furious. Like seriously furious. I have very specific reasons for not wanting my father in my life and if I decided I didn’t want his money, those reasons would likely come into play. Having her set up a trust behind my back with money I said I didn’t want would be such a betrayal of my feelings and my desire to not have my father play a part in my kids’ lives. To your brother, it could seem like his father came in and “saved the day” by paying for his kid’s education when he didn’t want him playing a part at all. My suggestion? Bring it up like manapan says, but if he says no, you consider giving the portion you consider your brother’s back to your father. It’s his responsibility to figure out what to do with it, and you don’t have to solve that dilemma for him (or any dilemma for that matter!). The other option would be to be totally honest about your plans for a trust fund and see what he thinks about that. Over time, it might feel more like the money is coming from you than dad, but if he wasn’t aware of your plans from the get go, he might feel betrayed.

    Just my 2 cents as someone on the other side. Family issues suck dude. They suck a lot.

  6. This situation is so tough. I have no advice to give. I guess you can’t know what either your brother or dad wants to do in this case unless you ask. But it sounds like a hard conversation to have. I like manapan’s suggestion for how to bring it up with your brother. Quick and (hopefully) painless.

  7. Hi, delurlking here to congratulate you on your pregnancy and to offer some unsolicited assvice. If you are almost sure he’ll flip out when you bring the subject up, why not try talking to your SIL? And if she thinks the holidays are ruined by such a topic, then just not tell your brother for now and set up an account for your nieces and tell him later? Not telling the truth is sometimes equal to lying, but hey, it’s a good kind of lie, it’s not like you take the money from him or his kids, you are being thoughtful and kind. And, I don’t know, I do have people in my life I would not accept anything from, especially money, but if they were to give it to my children, I would not refuse, but it would not change my feelings for them either. Perhaps I would feel like I would have to change how I act towards them, but most probably they would be the same jerks and I would end up exactly in the same spot.
    Best of luck to you! With everything.

  8. Honestly? I have a family member I have cut out of my life completely and I wouldn’t want one red cent from her. I wouldn’t say anything to your brother at all. It will likely cause friction. If you want your neices to have half of the money, put it in a 529 with their names on it and tell them about it when they turn 18.

  9. please see a tax lawyer before you cut a check. it is HIGHLY likely that you could save LOTS of money by setting up a trust.

  10. What a tricky situation. It’s saddening, and sad that you find yourself in this situation. I guess my gut reaction is that this is your brother’s choice, and while I agree you should offer the money, take him at his word if he says no, and don’t offer it to the kids without asking him. He might feel undermined. I’m always a fan of e-mail for this kind of thing, because it means people can have their reactions offline. (If you do it in person, he may just see red.) But all that aside, congratulations on the windfall! And how lovely to read about “the baby”. Money for the baby! Buy the baby something really wonderful, okay? Don’t just be all practical!

  11. “When I talk to my mom or my brother I feel like a traitor, like a failure, like some kind of morally suspect foreign body.”

    Why does your mother keep asking you about how you feel on the whole mess of the decades-ago? Is it because she wants to know what emotional brunt it had on you, or she wants to verify whose side you are on?

    If it is for the second reason, you are bound to enter warmer soup if you offer the money….they seem dissatisfied that you have not cut all the ties with your father.

    It is very nice of your Dad to give you that money…it will definitely help with lot of things….

    I think you must offer the money to your brother, but there are a few things you need to think of:

    1 Tact!
    2. If he refuses, do not give the money to his kids….return the money to your father.
    3. What if, this money-offer is seen by your mum and bro as another of your traitor-kind of activity? What will you do about it?
    4. Try and give the money towards the end of the trip, so the awkward silence and aftermath is not to be born for long.

    Alas, money!

    Has your father ever attempted contact with his son?

  12. I really don’t think that the money has anything to do with your brother. If your father wanted to give your brother money he could mail your brother a check. That is the relationship your brother has chosen with your dad and this money is not “automatically” your brother’s, IMHO. I would keep the money, use it for what you need, and not feel any guilt.

    About the divorce, it’s so easy to blame the cheater, and he may be a total creep, but if he is would you really stay in contact with him? Probably not. No one ever knows what goes on in another person’s marriage–maybe it was sexless and he was starved of affection for years. That is not a knock on your mom if true (and again, I have no idea what went on), but some women just do not keep providing the physical attention that men need. Should the man really be shunned when he eventually finds it elsewhere? I would not shun my own dad in that situation. You sound like the compassionate, reasonable one in all of this.

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