Carolyn Hax: Inheritance from bad grandparents feels like a ‘payoff’

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Dear Carolyn, I do not remember my grandparents fondly. While they doted on my brothers, I — the only girl — was ignored. They attended my brothers’ sporting events, but not mine. They skipped my high school, college, and master’s degree graduations. This hurt me very much.

One grandparent died years ago and the second just passed away. Their estate was split between their children and they left it up to each child to decide whether to share money with the grandchildren.

My mom wrote me a large check that I have not cashed. It feels like a payoff. Mom often brings up what good people they were as if to convince me of their goodness. If I take this money, then I worry she will use it to say, “See! They enabled you to … [donate, travel, save, etc.].” If I don’t take it, then I worry she will say I’m being resentful.

The truth is, I don’t care about the money. I wanted to feel loved and I never did. I wanted her to stand up for me and she didn’t. What do I do with this check?

Cash in Hand: I can’t say I’ve ever really understood the idea of ​​sticking it to someone else by punishing yourself.

Especially when there are so many ways you can use your grandparents’ money to stick it to them for the greater good.

Just for example, you can deposit the money and distribute it meaningfully — or spitefully, it’s up to you — to organizations working to reverse the damage of sexism like your grandparents’. Promoting female candidates for public office, safeguarding equal opportunity for women, advancing girls’ education globally, funding menopause research, or, oh, supporting reproductive autonomy? Have at it; there is no shortage of outrages for you to help remedy with this windfall of granddollars. Which were the very definition of hard-earned.

Or you can make sure your family’s next generation, if there is one, feels loved the way you never did, by using the money to travel to see their games or performances, or fund their educations, or pitch in to their fundraisers — equitably. If there isn’t a next generation (yet), then you can save the money for such a future.

Or you can use it now to show yourself the love they utterly failed to show you. Whether it’s to retire some education debt or put an addition on your house, it’ll be the investment in your worth that you’ve long deserved.

And if that inspires your mother to spew revisionist history, then correct the inaccuracies — without apology:

Mom: “Yeah! They enabled you to travel.”

You: “You enabled me to travel, Mom — which I do appreciate.”

Mom: “They were such good people!”

You: “You say that knowing they weren’t good for me. Please think about how that feels.”

If she then accuses you of being resentful:

“Yes, and hurt. They, you and others were okay with their doting on my brothers and ignoring me. But I am working hard to find peace and make something good come of it.”

It’s bad enough you got a crapsicle when your brothers got ice cream; there’s no reason whatsoever for you to add to that injury the insult of pretending any of it was okay just to keep your mother’s lies of self-preservation intact.

And this brings us to the lead I’ve buried: The real problem you have now isn’t your grandparents anymore, or their estate money, or what your mom will say if you use it. The problem is your mother herself: how she sold you out and she still wo n’t face what she did.

Accepting the check won’t fix that, nor will refusing it. That’s something for you to sort out for your own sake, inside — with therapeutic help, I suggest, if you are so inclined and have the means (another fine use for the cash; let them pay for the therapy they wrought). Doing so will help you see the value, or absence of it, or utter futility, in taking this up once and for all with your mom. That can be the last piece you process before releasing it (and them) all.

Dear Carolyn, Should I stay with someone who doesn’t get my sense of humor? We mesh on many things (except politics and religion), but not understanding how I look at things bothers me the most.

Lightenup: So you like everything about your cheeseburger except the bun, the meat and the cheese.

If you want to build your life around condiments, then it’s not for me to criticize and I certainly won’t (can’t) stop you.

But I will spend some time after I finish this trying to make a mental list of the possible “many things.”

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