Ask Alma: My father refused to help me pay for college, now he needs my help


Dear Alma,

My parents divorced when I was nine. It was cool, because I spent a lot of time with my father and I got along well with my stepfather. My biological father and I had a great relationship and spent weekends and holidays together. Things changed after I graduated from high school. My father worked three jobs and was very serious about instilling in me the importance of hard work, but he didn’t see the need to go to college. He did everything for me, but he wouldn’t pay or contribute to my college education. I talked to him and told him how important it was to me, but he just wouldn’t. He didn’t even come to my college graduation. I didn’t then and still don’t understand. I’m now a father and will do everything to help my boys go to college. I have a great salary and have started their college fund. Here’s the reason I e-mailed you. My father’s health is failing. He isn’t ready for a nursing home, but he needs help, because he lives alone. I don’t want to help him, because he didn’t help me. How can I explain to him, he doesn’t deserve my help?


My Father’s Son

Dear My Father’s Son,

Hmmmm, slow your roll my darling. I sympathize with you and totally understand your side of this situation, but you know what – you’re wrong. Yep, you’re wrong and your Daddy was wrong and two wrongs don’t make one right. Your life didn’t start when you graduated high school. Sounds like the two of you maintained a wonderful relationship up until then. His teachings and example of hard work, propelled you many a night when it came to cramming, and hitting those books, I’m sure. I know you are hurt and you felt abandoned, but you know what – you did it; you succeeded. His decision not to donate or contribute to your education didn’t stop you from completing your academic goals and graduating from college. Congratulations to you. Sure, you’ve got student loans and other grown up bills to pay, but don’t we all? It’s time to let that go.

In my opinion when it comes to caring for our parents, that’s a responsibility regardless of the relationship, unless there’s some kind of abuse. Reason being, both of my parents have gone on to be with the Lord and you know what, I can’t remember one argument. I don’t recall one disagreement or a time when I just didn’t want anything to do with them. Mind you, there were many LOL moments, I just choose not to recall. At this stage of my life I’ve realized, none of that nonsense was important anyway.

You’re the creator of the life story your sons will recall and remember. You have an obligation to rewrite this chapter when it comes to what happened between you and your father. You can blaze a new path in your family legacy, one that includes the support for education. Teach by example to your sons and be there for your father. Show your young men how you are honoring your father in his time of need, here at the end of his life. Choose to be at your best for your boys. It’s not about your Dad or the cracks in the wall of your relationship. This is about what your sons will see, while they’re watching you, be the best son you can to your father.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.