When my mother learned that I was giving my Gramma $35,000 so that she could move to Florida and put the money down on a house, she informed me that my brother had been arrested a year ago, lost his job, and needed an attorney because he was facing 120 years in prison.

She said they had not told me because they didn't want to worry me. I immediately handed over the $35,000 so that she could get him an attorney.

When the case finally went to trial, none of the money had been spent on my brother. He only had the free under-prepared public defender who had just been assigned to his case, four days prior to the trial. Without a proper defense and without calling a single witness, he was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

I was not informed of the trial date. I was never given a chance to testify on his behalf.

My grandmother made me promise not to bring this up with my mother while she was alive because then my mother wouldn't let me talk to her. Now my grandmother has passed and I need to have the "goodbye" discussion with my mother. I have no idea how to even approach this, since I get so extremely upset just thinking about it. I don't know what she did with the money, but as ironic as this is, she bought a rental property in Florida a couple years later.

One important point is that she was not close to her mother. She's the type of person who blames everything on everyone else. Our relationship has always been one where I desperately sought her love, support, and approval, which has always ended in disaster.

Note: We live on opposite sides of the country and so I can not have this discussion face to face.

The money is lost. I do not want it back. No, I'm not wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination.

  • 5
    What is it you want from this conversation with your mother? Is it to tell her you will never speak to her again? How will that be different from just never speaking to her again without an announcement? Is it to give her a chance to explain what she did and why? Is there information you need to get? Nobody can advise you what to say without knowing what you want from the conversation. Dec 6 '17 at 14:37
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    I think one has to happen face to face. A phone call or letter will not be effective. By confronting her, what are you hoping to accomplish.
    – user1856
    Dec 6 '17 at 14:48
  • that's why I added the under-prepared qualifier and public defender, with the assumption that a paid atorney would be better prepared and would have gotten a better sentence (at least) Dec 6 '17 at 14:56
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    I'm still not sure why you feel the need to have this confrontation. Is your goal simply to inform her "This is why I'm never speaking to you again"? If so, why bother talking to her at all (for your benefit, for hers, something else)? Or are you trying to give her one last chance to explain herself? You also haven't answered if you've talked to your brother about what happened with his defense.
    – Em C
    Dec 6 '17 at 15:01
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    It sounds like you are not at all close to your brother, if he had been arrested and was facing a major trial and you only knew about it because your mother asked for money. Could you clarify what your relationship to your brother is -- i.e. did you care about helping him or were you just trying to help your mother? That might affect how you proceed. Could you edit to add that and also other information you've given in comments? Thanks. Dec 6 '17 at 15:35

Since you are unable (or unwilling) to have this confrontation face to face, I would send her a letter stating that you no longer wish to speak with her and will not bail her out again should trouble come. Be sure to spell out the reasons as factually as you can.

If you can convey your message with a phone call, and you are comfortable doing so, that would be okay as a backup option to face to face too.

Some folks are not comfortable talking on the phone about sensitive topics, such as myself, so I find that when I write something around a sensitive topic I am more able to keep my emotions in check and be more factual. Also, the content sticks better with the recipient as they may be inclined to re-read it.

I still believe this confrontation, if your really need it, would be best performed face to face and that you would gain the most satisfaction and closure with this approach. I would seriously consider whether you should expend any effort here.

  • 2
    If someone doesn't want to read a letter, they won't read it. It'll either get burnt or trash-canned. You have no way at all of knowing whether it's read or not. It's harder to ignore a phone call once it's started.
    – user1722
    Dec 6 '17 at 15:55
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    @Snow: And if someone doesn't want to answer the phone, then they won't answer the phone either. OP's mom will be just as capable of hanging up a phone call mid conversation, as stopping to read a letter halfway through. I'm not sure what distinction you're trying to make here. Besides, if the OP is ending the contact with his mother, it doesn't quite matter (for the OP) if she reads it or not. Whether she burns the letter, doesn't pick up the phone, or puts her fingers in her ears during a face to face conversation; doesn't really make a difference.
    – Flater
    Dec 8 '17 at 14:35

I deleted my previous answer because I mis-read your question first time and assumed that this was about the money. For this, I apologise.

It's not about the money at all, it's about your mother believing that your brother is guilty of this crime and not wishing to defend him. It's possible that your brother and mother had a conversation that you're not party to and a decision was reached.

What we don't know is how your brother feels about this.

Did your brother want to be defended? Did your mother ultimately decide not to defend him? What led to this decision?

It might be easier to start talking about your brother first and understanding the reasons behind the non-defence, and leave the money to one side for now. Once that conversation has started, the money issue may come out in the wash.

  • 5
    So it's possible that she's punishing the both of you. Man, that's tough, and this brings another dimension to this story.
    – user1722
    Dec 6 '17 at 15:05

Firstly, sorry for the loss of your grandmother. I don't want to be tactless in my response but you are seeking a practical solution so I must address a few difficult subjects.

A letter might seem like an easier option than a phone call but if you don't know how she will react you may or may not get a response. The letter may also be shown to others or parts read out of context, and you may be misrepresented. Written communication is beneficial when you want to state something clearly and factually, but when you are hoping for discussion / answers it can be better to speak.

You have stated that this is not about the money, and that you consider the money "lost", so I won't dwell on that too much. But if by "lost" you mean your mother has spent it on property as you imagine then in a normal family situation you would expect one day her property and capital to be willed to you (and your siblings).

You need to think carefully about what you want to achieve from the exchange. Are you looking for an apology? An acknowledgement of wrongdoing? An explanation? Also consider the possible outcomes. Do you think you will reconcile, or do you expect her to deny / justify her actions?

It will likely be an emotional discussion involving as it does so many family issues, and as you say, you find it very upsetting. Being clear about your objectives and preparing for possible outcomes beforehand will help. There will be less to take you by surprise.

I would suggest tackling it head on and say:

We need to have a discussion about the money I gave you.

Rather than accuse, state how things look and how it makes you feel:

I provided money for his defense. However, he only had a public defender. That makes me wonder what happened to 10 years' worth of savings that I provided for this purpose.

This is a fairly open question. This may lead her to open up and tell her side of things. For closure on this I think you need to know how it was spent. If she doesn't volunteer this information, ask directly. Hopefully she will give you some answers.

I hope that you are able to reconcile in some way. Your grandmother's death means that if your mother feels bad that you held back the discussion (if you share that with her), or ashamed that her mother knew this, she cannot apologise to her for that. Similarly, you may feel angry and want to cut your mother off, but there will come a time when you will be unable to reconcile even if you wanted to.

  • 5
    "I gave you the money for my brother's defence, but he didn't get a defence. It looks like you spent the money on something else. How do you think that makes me feel?' That sounds somewhat accusatory, although I understand what you're trying to get at. I'd suggest "I provided money for his defense. However, he only had a public defender. That makes me wonder what happened to 10 years' worth of savings that I provided for this purpose" Dec 6 '17 at 15:23
  • Thanks @baldPrussian I prefer your wording and have edited my answer.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 6 '17 at 15:38
  • @rbsdca I admit I included the word "normal" because I appreciate this is a pretty messed up situation. You know your mother better than we do, but don't assume too much. Bear in mind that you have deliberately avoided this discussion for some time because of your grandmother. You might be surprised at the response you get.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 6 '17 at 15:41

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