A Holiday Parable
Many years ago I had a "senior" client who had become estranged from his daughters. They were upset because he'd married another woman several years after their mother died, and although their father's second wife was a fine person who did her best to embrace the family, the daughters would have none of it. They wouldn't speak to the new wife or even visit their father because "she" would be there. Finally, even the lines of written communication were severed.
The father was distraught by his daughters' reaction, which he viewed as extremely selfish. I heard his lament many times: Couldn't they see he wasn't replacing their mother, yet they were denying him the last smidgen of happiness he might have? Eventually, the situation also angered him, and he executed a new will that left the daughters out completely. I wrote the will the way he wanted it, but it always nagged at me that the outcome seemed more like a family tragedy than good planning.
A couple of years went by with no thaw in relations. Finally, I just called the father one day and asked whether I could contact the daughters and make a pitch for reconciliation. He said he would really appreciate that because he, too, had been feeling badly about where things stood. I called each of the daughters, and it was as if the floodgates had opened. They also felt terrible, as it turned out; they just didn't know where to start to repair the damage they'd done.
The story has a happy ending. The father eventually died, yes, but he and his daughters - and the new wife - made up in time.
The trouble is, this scenario repeats itself too often. Family members drift or break apart for any number of reasons. Sometimes they can't even remember exactly why. Then, as more time goes on, the ice thickens, and no one knows how to break through. Everyone worries that their overtures will be rebuffed, so no one picks up the phone and just says, "I'm sorry, let's fix things." Saying "I'm sorry" is critical, whether it's really your fault or not - and frankly, who cares at that point.
Anytime is the right time to make that call - but right now is the best time of all. No one held it against Scrooge that he did a 180 and became the lovable uncle. Bygones were forgotten, and no one looked back. In fact, being the one to break the ice not only feels really good, but it puts you squarely on the high ground, and may even short-list you for the Nobel Peace Prize - you could do worse than that.
Posted 12/22/2015 Misc.