Should I Be Loyal to My Father or My Dying Uncle?

My father’s brother was going through a rough patch financially, so my father offered him a room in his house. My uncle moved in, but they fought frequently over my uncle’s insistence that my father should be more religious. After months of tension, my father finally asked my uncle to leave, and my uncle stopped speaking to him. Later, he was diagnosed with cancer. My father made many attempts to repair their relationship, but my uncle wanted nothing to do with him. Now, we have learned that my uncle is terminally ill. He has invited the whole family — except for my father — to gather for one last Passover. I am torn: It feels wrong to exclude my father, but it also feels wrong to refuse the wish of a dying man. Thoughts?


I appreciate your sharing the back story of this conflict between your father and your uncle. Context is always helpful. Now, I urge you to set it aside: It is not your job to repair the relationship between these men or to judge them. In my experience, sibling relationships are often more layered and complex than any one story can convey.

Creating some emotional distance here may also help make your decision about attending Passover easier. On a purely humane level, there is no conflict between sympathizing with a man who is dying and feeling bad about your father’s exclusion from what may be a last gathering. I can also imagine your discomfort at feeling disloyal to your father. That’s a lot of emotion to layer onto one day!

Still, I would attend your uncle’s Seder. And I would tell your father that you feel sorry about his exclusion. Let him know that you love him and think he has been a good brother to your uncle. Your father already knows what a difficult situation this is. I doubt he would want you to boycott the Seder for him, and I bet he will be proud of your compassion.

Credit…Miguel Porlan

Expanding the Old Boys’ Club

For 15 years, my best friend and I have hosted a monthly dinner meant to keep the ol’ crew together as we’ve aged, married and had kids. We call it the Man Dinner — intentionally coarse and noninclusive. There are 30 guys on the list and about 10 of them show up regularly. No woman has ever been invited or attended. The wrinkle: A longtime attendee is transitioning to be a woman. I am of the opinion that we should remove her from the Man Dinner list. We can see her separately. Your thoughts?

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