Dad’s ’tall tales’ come up ever shorter on the truth

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: My father, who is in his 60s, has always been a storyteller, but since retirement his tales have gotten longer, and so has his nose.

I suspect he's concerned about his waning influence in the world and that's why he puffs himself up. He tells people he has academic degrees he hasn't earned, takes credit for coining phrases that predated him and claims the hero role in events he couldn't possibly have participated in.

Most of the time I let it go. But sometimes he starts spouting "facts" that are not only untrue but also potentially harmful, or he takes credit for work done by others who deserve the recognition.

Is there a way to call him on it that lets him save face? Speaking to him privately does nothing. When prodded in a more truthful direction, he becomes immediately hostile. Suggesting other ways for him to contribute to the world (volunteering, etc.) have been non-starters. Before you ask, he has been to the doctor and this behavior isn't the result of a medical issue. -- EMBARRASSED IN TEXAS

DEAR EMBARRASSED: It should be apparent to you by now that you can't change your father. His bids for respect and attention are sad, because the individuals being lied to usually learn the truth eventually.

Because we can't change the behavior of others, it's important to remember that we can change the way we react to them. Because correcting your father in public hasn't worked, if you catch him telling someone something you know is untrue -- and which could be harmful healthwise or financially -- contact the person privately and advise him or her to verify it with a doctor, lawyer or trusted financial adviser.

DEAR ABBY: I am divorced. Three years ago, I met a woman and had a brief relationship with her. She was estranged from her husband at the time. I fell deeply in love with her, but she decided to go back to him. It has been several years, and we have been "talking" again. She's now divorced, and she told me she has feelings for me. She's dating someone else, but she texts and calls me at least once a day.

I have sent her flowers and gifts for which she has thanked me, but despite all that she won't "date" me. I'm beside myself because I'm still very much in love with this woman. I know she loves me too, because she has said so. What do I do? I feel like pulling my hair out. Can you offer any advice? -- WON'T DATE ME

DEAR WON'T: You feel like pulling your hair out because you have been getting mixed messages from your love object. Women who love men rarely refuse to date them. Women who are honest and ethical do not date one man and text and call ex-boyfriends at the same time. My advice is to do a 180, "detoxify" and find a lady who is emotionally and physically available.

DEAR ABBY: My family has suffered a great loss. My older sister died by suicide. My younger sister's best friend "Carrie" drove four hours from Michigan to be with our family. From the day after we found out and for almost a week, Carrie was by our side, comforting us, helping with arrangements and anything else that needed to be done. She even worked all night with our old family videos to digitize, edit and set them to music so it would be done in time for the wake.

Now, as we are beginning to write thank-you notes to all of those who were there for us, my family is wondering how we can express our gratitude to her for her support during this awful time. We would like to do or give her something special because we truly consider her to be a part of our family, but we don't know what. -- APPRECIATIVE IN THE EAST

DEAR APPRECIATIVE: The head of the family or your younger sister should write Carrie a letter telling her how much her kindness is appreciated and telling her she is now truly a member of the family. I'm sure it would mean the world to her. In addition, consider giving her something that belonged to your older sister, such as a piece of jewelry. Your younger sister should be the person to select it. A keepsake would, I am sure, be deeply appreciated and treasured.

DEAR ABBY: At age 17, my pregnant and unwed mother married a schoolmate of my biological father. I was given the schoolmate's last name. Several years later, my mother divorced her first husband and married my biological father. They discussed changing my last name to that of my bio father, but never did. I recently had DNA testing that proved this information to be accurate.

My last name is still not the name of my biological father, and I recently learned that the man named on my birth certificate was a rapist, an alcoholic and a bully. This is very upsetting, and I would like to legally change my name to match my actual father's. The problem is I'm now 70, married with wonderful kids and grandkids who are proud of our name. I don't want the fake daddy's name on my tombstone. Any advice for this distressed guy? -- DISTRESSED SENIOR MAN

DEAR DISTRESSED: Talk to your family about why you want the name change. Perhaps when they hear that the person whose name was thrust upon you was a rapist and substance abusing bully who mistreated your mother, they will be more understanding and less willing to cling to the name they are so "proud" of. If not, then suit yourself. I wish you luck.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been living together for 10 years, although he is still legally married. When we met, he and his wife had been separated for five years. Neither one had the money to get divorced. My question is, if anything should happen to my boyfriend, would she have claim to any of his assets? (He doesn't have much beyond his vehicle.) -- JUST WONDERING IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR JUST WONDERING: Yes, as his surviving spouse, she will be entitled to whatever assets he leaves behind, which includes the vehicle.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married a little over a year. My wife took a trip to Florida to get some things out of storage, and turned it into a two-week vacation. She's now traveling back with the in-laws, which I wasn't expecting.

Yesterday she announced she doesn't want to talk to anyone, including me, and will only text for the next three days during the trip because she's too tired. I feel rejected and like yesterday's news because she hardly calls me and she almost forgot to say goodnight. I don't think this is healthy for our relationship, and I have separation anxiety to boot. Is this normal? -- NEWLYWED GUY IN IOWA

DEAR GUY: Something is going on with your wife, and unless she is usually this uncommunicative, her unwillingness to talk with you is not normal. Do not pressure her or make her feel guilty in order to alleviate your separation anxiety. Give her the time she said she needs to decompress and get her thoughts together. When she and her parents arrive, you will have plenty of time to clear the air.

DEAR ABBY: I am disabled and live about 2,000 miles from my best friend. For months now she has spoken about her plans to have a vow renewal ceremony on her 10th wedding anniversary. Although I am on a fixed income, I have been saving every dime so I can attend.

As it turns out, I'm not invited. She's requested online that everyone who has received their invitation and hasn't sent their R.S.V.P. should, so she'll know how many people to tell the caterer to prepare for. My invitation didn't get lost in the mail or in cyberspace. I was just not invited.

I am extremely hurt by this because she has always claimed that I am her best friend. How should I handle this? -- UNINVITED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UNINVITED: You have a right to feel hurt. "Best" friends don't treat each other this way. Handle it by asking her why you were left off the guest list. She may not have invited you because she knows you are on a fixed income and assumed you couldn't attend. However, if that's not the reason for the omission, then you may not have had as close a relationship as you assumed.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were invited by an older friend to lunch on his patio, while observing the social distancing rules. Before we left his home, we thanked him profusely as we greatly appreciated the visit, especially given our lack of social interaction during the pandemic.

When we arrived home, I wrote a thank-you note and put it in the mail. However, I'm wondering if I should also have sent an immediate text or e-mail message to our friend. Are there new rules that cover immediate electronic communication vs. old-fashioned thank-you notes? -- WONDERING IN ALABAMA

DEAR WONDERING: Many people use immediate electronic communication as a way to avoid the "hassle" and expense of penning a handwritten thank-you note. However, making the time and effort to show your appreciation the traditional way rather than doing both wasn't a faux pas, so stop worrying.