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Ask Mindy: Discover Letters

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Ask Mindy


Readers, it’s that time again: time for another “Ask Mindy.” Welcome back to the world of Mindy Morals, the “insightful ingenue” from Moriches, New York. Do you speak the Pompatus of love? Mindy does. In this installment, Mindy answers questions about unexpected discoveries.


 


Dear Mindy,

My father-in-law is the kindest, bravest, smartest man I know. I love him deeply. Sometimes the rest of the family jokes that I only married my wife so that I could hang out with my cool-as-all-heck FIL. And guess what, Mindy: they’re right!


We spend time doing all the traditional in-law activities—setting off backyard rockets, rolling down hills, discussing the finer points of tenant eviction—always laughing loud and long.


Which is why the past few days have been so hard for me. See, it turns out my bonus papa is a bad guy. He can be very mean to people on the phone, and he even used a very, very, very bad word. I won’t say what the word is, partially because the rest of the family said that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but it’s bad.


Anyway, I don’t know what to do. I don’t think I should respect this man anymore, but I’m going to miss him so much once I stop spending time with him! Also, I’m the special envoy for Middle Eastern peace, and I see transitioning away from that creating an extremely awkward situation.


What do you think?


 


Sincerely,


I Love My Father-in-law, but I’m Scared


 


Dear Scared,

An unexpected, unpleasant revelation about a loved one is a difficult thing. Back in 1948, when I was a young girl, I attended the Olympics with my mother. “Mindy,” she said, “Don’t you love St. Moritz in the Winter?” I told her I did. “Well, good, because your real father is from here,” she said. “His name is Leopold Cuckoo, and I’ve decided we are to live with him.”


Though I was pleased to discover that I was a direct descendant of Gustave Cuckoo himself, and thus heir to the not-inconsiderable Cuckoo Clock fortune, I was very sad to leave my family and friends behind. When I returned to the United States years later, they were all quite shocked at my thick alpine accent and the Tyrolean cap I sported. “What happened to the Mindy we remember?!” they cried. “We want her, not this chalet sham!”


All of which is to say that I understand your heartbreak, and though your story is not as bad as mine, I can sympathize. But I will remind you of one thing, Scared. Even if your father-in-law is a terrible man, it doesn’t need to be a reflection on you. Use his moral failings as an example of how not to act, and cherish the truly good people in your life. Remember that you are a fully-formed adult, and that you do not need to be cowed into supporting anybody you do not admire, respect and love.


 


Dear Mindy,

I lost my wallet. I was sitting on a park bench, thinking about my sorrows, when I felt a sudden shift in my back pocket. I didn’t think much of it at the time, didn’t even bother to check the affected area, just continued eating my Cuban sandwich and watching the pigeons. Later, when I returned home, I discovered that my wallet was gone.


It wasn’t much to replace, just quick calls to Diners Club and Fifth Third for new cards and a visit to the Times Square Disney for a new Goofy Velcro number. But in the days and weeks that followed, I was consumed by what had happened. Counterfactuals spun through my mind like dervishes. What if I hadn’t gone to the park that day? What if I had patted my pocket after the incident? What if I had been eating an Egg Salad sandwich? What if I had died young, and none of this had ever happened?


Suddenly, I could think of little else save the grim blueprint of happenstance that I’d unexpectedly discovered underpinned my entire life. I was paralyzed. Once you’ve realized that you are truly powerless, what else can you do?


Anyway, Mindy, I’d like to know how you deal with your own big, earth-shattering discoveries. How do you return to the cave, Mindy, once you’ve seen that the figures within it are merely shadows?


 


Sincerely,


Down and Doubt


 


Dear Doubt,


Ahh…the mysteries of the universe. Many are the nights I’ve spent staring up at the stars, wondering who I’m meant to be, what purpose my existence serves and what cosmic plan controls my destiny. Difficult questions, all of them. I’ve only come close to answering them once. I was in Shreveport for a psychiatric convention, and I passed by the Balsa wood factory in the heart of town. It was a bad time for me. Dave, my boyfriend just before I met Mr. Morals, had just dumped me. “You just don’t get it, Mindy,” he had said, “CB radios are going to be big, big, BIG! If you aren’t okay with me pouring all our savings into them, I don’t think I’m okay with you.”


There I was, walking by the factory, lonely as a cloud, when I suddenly heard a voice. “What’s your trouble, miss?” Expecting some catcalling creep, I was instead surprised to find myself face to face with a wizened, kindly-seeming old man. “Oh, nothing, old man,” I said. “Just thinking about CB radios.”


“Well, missie, I don’t know much CB radios—heck, where I’m from, we don’t have much use for anything more than a candle and a book—but I’d like to think I know a little something about a little thing called life.”


“Is that so, old man?” I said. (To this day, I still don’t know why I called him such a rude name.)


“Oh, you betcha. And I know enough about it to say that you—” and here he pointed at my chest, “are going to be A-OK.”


“Thank you, old man,” I said.


“Oh, don’t even mention it,” he said, a gleam in his soft blue eyes.


Suddenly full of life, I walked back to my hotel. I turned around once, to see if the man was still there, but he was already gone. I met Mr. Morals just a few days later, and we were wed within the year. On our one year anniversary, I suggested to him that we take a vacation to the bayou. “I have someone to thank,” I said.


But when I asked the concierge at the Shreveport Ramada for directions to the factory, he just shook his head. “The Balsa Wood Factory?” he said, “There hasn’t been a balsa wood factory in this town for nearly 50 years!”


That evening, I sat on our balcony, dejected and disheartened. I felt suddenly hopeless, unsure of my entire life. I lit a cigarette. (Kids, if you’re reading this, it used to be much more accepted!) I watched the ribbons of smoke rise up toward the sky. And as I sat there, counting the stars, I suddenly notice how they twinkled and gleamed—much like the gleam of the old man’s eye.


What I’m trying to say, Doubt, is that sometimes our lives are guided by forces that we can’t understand. I can’t help you with the big questions. I don’t think anybody can. Just try to enjoy each day to the fullest, and don’t spend too much time worrying about the stuff you can’t control. It’ll all work out in the end.


 


Dear Mindy,

My father was a quiet man. In all his 90 years, I never saw him say more than 10 words at a time. Our conversations were sparse—mainly the sounds of chewing, punctuated by the occasional kind remark—“pass the salt,” maybe, or, if he were feeling particularly generous, “nice mashed potatoes, huh.”


But I recently discovered something shocking in the attic—a collection of novels, written in his hand. Most of them are pretty bad, unfortunately. The Ms. Cornelia Hammerthwack detective novels are largely half-baked and predictable (particularly The Marzipan Regatta and The Gloaming O’erhead), the “fool-proof” gambling guide lost me nearly $15,000; and The Romulons of Krandar-Eight, an otherwise passable example of “hard sci-fi,” is ruined by the inclusion of Star Wars’s Jar-Jar Binks as both a major character and a kind of intergalactic lothario.


But it’s not the literary merit of the novels that has me concerned, Mindy. Rather, it’s the fact that my ostensibly taciturn father was in fact quite well-read and expressive. What do I do with that, Mindy?


 


Sincerely,


Taking a Second Book


 


Dear Book,

Wow—talk about not having the “write” stuff! I kid, I kid—this is a very delicate family situation. One of the hardest things in life is realizing that our parents are people, with hopes and dreams entirely separate from us. I know that learning that your father was a writer, and that he had concealed this from you for whatever reason, is shocking. Sadly, you’ll probably never know why he did this. Maybe he felt his books were too intimate an expression of his inner life. Maybe he thought they weren’t good enough to show you. But whatever the reason is, don’t let it cloud your memories of him. If he loved you, and was kind and supportive, than that’s what really matters. Whatever you find out later shouldn’t take away from that.


 


That’s it for this week, but Mindy is always taking questions. Need help solving your dilemma? Just email mindy@manhattanmedia.com. You just might read your answer in next week’s column.


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