Dear Carolyn: I'm the oldest child, with two younger brothers.

My dad passed away about five years ago. My mom told me my dad cheated on her all their married life, until he got too old. She had hinted at that before.

When I asked her why she stayed with him, she replied that he always came back to her. A reply, I think, just as abused women would reply.

My brothers adored my dad and still do. They think he did no wrong and admire his accomplishments.

Do I have an obligation to correct the record for them on my dad's true self, or do I just keep this awful secret to myself? I feel they should know his true character and make up their minds about that.

I don't know why she told only me. Could it be because I'm a woman? At one time she told me she was a bit annoyed that I was "admiring" my dad and praising him so much. And I don't know if she'd want me to tell my brothers. She is still living; she almost never talks about feelings, perhaps because, after she lost her dad to the Nazis, she was told to never be sad or cry.

Carolyn says: Maybe she didn't leave him, and doesn't dwell on her feelings in general, because she had already witnessed what to her were far more terrible things.

Maybe she admired his accomplishments, too, even knowing his "true character."

Staying isn't only for victims. It also can appeal to pragmatists, optimists, cynics, romantics, moral relativists, thoughtful parents, loyal partners, next-level compartmentalizers, cheaters in kind, and just comfortably complicated people.

Be mindful as you proceed of any lasting effects of trauma, of course. But do take your question to her before you do anything else. If she has a nuanced view of your father, then it could do a lot to inform and clarify yours — which would make any answer you come to on the do-I-share-this-truth question a much more agreeable one.

Billed for a bed

Dear Carolyn: For Thanksgiving, I stayed with long-term friends and their family. They had a FULL house, with host and hostess sleeping on recliners in their den. I offered to bring my own air bed. The host insisted on providing an air bed from her daughter.

On the third of four nights, the air bed developed a leak. No jumping, no roughhousing, no sharp objects, no second person on the bed. I refilled it every few hours.

Several days later, my long-term friend advised me she had purchased a new replacement air bed, expecting me to reimburse her for the $300 cost. My suggestion of paying a prorated amount if the bed was not new and under warranty was viewed as rude and insensitive.

What to do?

Carolyn says: Pay the $300 — as in, grab the smallest loss in a no-win situation.

The temptation is great to suggest you also find better friends, because the stoopage to billing anyone for the failure of a non-abused air mattress is so low that I struggle to imagine any kind person who'd do that. Air mattresses eventually fail! All the time. Even the fancy expensive guaranteed no-fail ones, even under boring one-sleeping-person use, I can painfully attest to myself.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at