Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Brother not speaking to me due to inheritance: My adopted father abandoned our family 25 years ago. He was drunk and abusive, he raped my mother, and he beat me up a couple of times. When he left I was 16, and my brothers (his birth children, same mother as me) were 8 and 6. He said he wanted to forget his life with us and our mother, and he moved on. We saw him around town every year or two, but he ignored us.
He died of cancer last year alone, and nobody found his body for two weeks. I felt sad for him but had no guilty feelings about losing touch with him, because I felt it had been his decision as an adult. I didn’t wish to go to the funeral as I thought it would cause me too much emotional pain and wanted to protect myself, but I called my middle brother to see if I could help with the paperwork or bills. He called me a money grabber and said I wasn’t entitled to anything. There was no will and I was adopted before he was born, so I got a third of the money.
My brother and his wife now refuse to speak to me as apparently I should only have got some of the money if I had attended the funeral. None of us had spoken to our father for years, but I now feel that I was never thought of as a sister. My brother’s wife was awful to me and called me names. My other brother and my mum are completely on my side and understand, but this is making things difficult at family parties. My mum has to invite us to her house on separate days.
I don’t feel I should call him to make up, as I haven’t done anything wrong. I think his wife wanted half the money, not a third, and I think my brother feels guilty that our father died in the way he did.
A: It’s sad that you’re not able to speak with your brother, but as you say, you can’t repair the breach because you haven’t done anything wrong.
You offered to help with the bureaucratic weight of your father’s death, and your brother snapped as if you’d tried to pry the cufflinks from your father’s funeral suit. You decided not to attend the funeral of a man who abused and abandoned you. You inherited some of your father’s money, just as both of your brothers did. You have not called your brother and his wife to yell at them, and inheriting money from a deceased parent is not a reward for calculated funeral attendance.
You have nothing to apologize for. It’s very sad that your brother and his wife have decided to waste so much time and energy resenting someone who has not harmed them in any way. It’s an unhappy trait he seems to have inherited from your father. If he ever wants to apologize for how he’s treating you now, I hope you can find a way to be gracious and listen, but you don’t owe him anything beyond that.