Brother’s hair-trigger temper makes get-togethers tense

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DEAR ABBY: A year ago, my brother “Leon” had a nervous breakdown at work due to a co-worker constantly harassing him. He’s currently under the care of a therapist through his workplace and has not worked for a year.

Recently, at a family get-together, I asked him a question about his current situation. He became angry and very emotional. He accused me of “not listening” and went through the process of re-describing in detail how the co-worker harassed him. He then became confrontational, as if I were on trial. His adult daughter kept her head down, until she finally told her father that I only asked him the question because I loved him and was concerned for him. My niece and her sister both tried to de-escalate the situation, but were unsuccessful.

After he was done with his tirade, he proceeded to harass and belittle ME! At that point, I got up and told my husband privately that I wanted to leave, which we did. This isn’t the first time my brother has behaved this way at a family get-together. He acted out toward family members long before the incident at his workplace.

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I enjoy being with my family, but Leon has made it unpleasant for me, and I don’t like how I must walk on eggshells around him to prevent a confrontation. How do I handle this in the future and still have fun with my family? — LINE OF FIRE IN OHIO

DEAR LINE OF FIRE: It appears your brother is not progressing well with his therapy, which is sad not only for him but also anyone who has to interact with him. Because you are no longer willing to tolerate his abuse, a logical answer would be to see your relatives in situations where he isn’t included. Consider doing some entertaining on your own, because in that way, you can control the guest list.


DEAR ABBY: I was adopted at birth. About 30 years ago, I found my birth mother, but our relationship is intermittent and distant. She only recently gave me a name of my biological father. Through DNA testing I have discovered that the name she gave me was incorrect and who he actually was. The confirmation is rock solid with half-sisters and several first cousins located.

My birth mother is 90 now. Should I tell her what I have found out or let it go? All of the direct players in this, except her, have passed on. — TRUTH-TELLER IN TEXAS

DEAR TRUTH-TELLER: How mentally “with it” is your 90-year-old mother? If she’s in the early stages of dementia, what have you to gain by telling her? If she’s sharp as a tack, one has to wonder why she would try to obscure your bio-father’s identity. Was she attempting to protect herself, him or you? Or was she unsure of his identity because she had been raped or was seeing more than one man? These are questions I can’t answer for you.

It shouldn’t create a bombshell if you approach the subject by telling her you have uncovered some information about your biological relatives. If she is interested, tell her everything. If not, let it be.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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