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Ask Amy: DNA testing uncovers terrible legacy

Dear Amy: Like many others who have written to you, my sister and I recently learned that we have a half sibling (through DNA testing).

Our father cheated many times before Mom finally left him. The possibility of finding another sibling was very real.

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What shocked us, however, was finding out that our brother’s biological mom was 14 when she gave birth to him. Our father was 43 at the time. Apparently our father blackmailed her into having sex with him. She and her parents were neighbors, and she still lives nearby.

Our brother is 30 years old now. He found his bio mom five years ago. They have built a relationship. She is aware that he is in contact with us. Based on what our brother has told us, his bio mom loves him to pieces.

My sister and I wonder: Where do we go from here? Our father is dead and so we can’t express our outrage to him (we didn’t have much contact with him the last 20 years of his life because he was so awful).

I feel like I owe his bio mom an apology, but I’m not sure how she would feel about hearing from us. My sister, my mother and I all believe her completely.

I want to express to her how sorry I am for everything that happened to her, but I’m not sure how to do this, or even if I should.

— Lost

Dear Lost: DNA testing has thrown many families into flux because of the long-buried secrets it can reveal. Your family’s story is especially challenging. You all sound like kind and compassionate people, and my main advice is to lead with that. You may make mistakes in your approach, but this is truly uncharted territory.

You should start by building a relationship with your half brother. He is piecing his biological family together and you are part of a bigger picture for him.

Ask your brother if he thinks his mother would be open to contact from you and your family. If so, you should reach out via letter, FB message or email. Identify yourself. Say how happy you are to get to know your brother.

Tell her, “We realize the circumstances surrounding his birth must have been unimaginably hard for you. We are all so ashamed of our father — he was an awful man on many fronts, but what he did to you was truly terrible. My sister and I, along with our mother, want to express our sorrow and solidarity. We would like to get together with you, if you are open to that.”

Dear Amy: My life is complicated right now. Responsibilities at home prevent me from traveling for more than an occasional overnight.

Travel has always been important to me. I have many things to be grateful for and try not to focus on what I can’t have.

I have shared my disappointment with my friend. She goes on many trips and sends pictures, long stories and details about their wonderful adventures. While I am happy for her good fortune, I sometimes feel that she is insensitive — kind of like showing an elaborate meal to someone who is hungry.

Am I oversensitive? Thoughts?

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— Frustrated Traveler

Dear Frustrated: I think you are experiencing an almost universal frustration for those of us left at home to see curated versions of others’ awesomeness. (A friend’s beautiful photos of her fun family vacation on the Amalfi Coast recently sent me into a mini-tailspin.)

You don’t mention how you are receiving these stories of your friend’s far-off travels, but if it is through social media, you can easily scroll past them (or temporarily “mute” them).

You should also consider that your friend believes she is being generous to share her detailed travel experiences with you so that you can be an armchair traveler alongside her.

Unless she is somehow forcing these vacation narratives onto you, I don’t think she is being insensitive. You are definitely sensitive — perhaps oversensitive — and yes, you should search for positive ways to cope with that.

Dear Amy: I had to laugh about the question from “Delicate,” the woman wondering how to dispose of her husband’s vintage porn collection.

My father was into porn, and when he passed away, my sister didn’t want our stepmother to be embarrassed if the garbagemen saw the magazines and videos.

The stuff was triple-bagged and disposed of in a restaurant’s dumpster. Personally, I thought it was a bit of overkill.

— Not Ashamed

Dear Not: I quite agree.

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)

Copyright 2019 by Amy Dickinson

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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