Dear Annie: Mom’s secret affair still haunts me

Woman ignoring another woman

Mother told everyone I was a liar. (Getty Images)

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Dear Annie: When I was 4 years old, my father went to work one day and my mother’s “friend” came to visit us. We had a nice lunch; her friend showed me how he could make smoke rings with his cigarettes and could pull a quarter out of my ear. He bounced me on his knee and was so much fun. My father was 20 years older than my mother and never played with us. He went to work, came home, changed clothes and went to his club every night to drink and play cards.

After lunch, my mother said everyone had to take a nap. I was in the bedroom with my younger sister and brother, and she and her friend went to my parents’ bedroom to take their nap. When my father came home, I was excited to show him the quarter and to tell him all about the nice day we had. When I got to the part about the naps, he got really angry.

He and my mother were screaming, and my mother was crying, saying that I was a liar. I remember my father’s sister on the phone telling him that he could not afford a divorce because my mother would get all his pay with three kids. He walked out after that but came home a few days later. It was never discussed again. When my father was at work, my mother’s friend would come over with his mother. He and my mother would leave in his car, and his mother would babysit us.

That went on until his mother died when I was eight years old. This man ended up marrying another woman and had a baby. I suspect some of my siblings are from their affair. I never told anyone. Everyone saw my mother as a perfect Catholic wife and mom, especially my brothers and sisters. My mother told everyone that I was a liar. Nobody ever asked her what I lied about. I know she always said that stuff to prepare for if I ever talked about it.

Sometimes I wonder if I should tell her secret. She is gone now and so is everyone from his family. I have held the secret for more than 70 years. I think some will eventually get their DNA tested and wonder why they are related to strangers. This has not happened so far. Both my father and my mother’s male friend were Irish with red hair, blue eyes and were very similar in appearance, so no one ever questioned any of my siblings’ looks.

I know it would be devastating for me to share this secret. Should I take this to my grave? -- Mother’s Affair

Dear Mother’s Affair: I can only imagine how heavily this has been weighing on you, keeping this secret for so many decades. It was incredibly unfair of your mother to put you in this position, and it’s one that a child should never have to face.

There are pros and cons to keeping or sharing this secret, and the only person who knows what’s right is you. Before broadcasting this information to the whole family, consider sharing it with the sibling you’re closest to or with another friend or loved one you trust to test the waters. I wonder if any of your siblings have their own suspicions that your mother was having an affair, considering her behavior and the exposure to this man who wasn’t your father for so many years.

Whatever you decide, know that everything will be OK and you’re not alone. For so long, you’ve been loyal and steadfast toward your mother. Now is the time to put yourself first.

Annie  Lane

Stories by Annie Lane

“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to


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