Dear Prudence,I was a very angry teen. My parents were wealthy but morally bankrupt. My father got sole custody of me after my mother hit and killed a man with her car while on drugs. My impression of my stepmother at the time was that she was young and “the enemy.” I was horrible to her, even when she raised me after my father’s death. She didn’t have to keep me, and I know she didn’t like me, but I would have been dead without her. I was forced into therapy three times a week and given private tutors when I struggled in school. We had dinner at 7 every night, usually in silence. I haven’t seen her since I was 20, when she invited me to Christmas and I said something cruel and hurtful in response.
I am 30 now, and the therapy has finally brought some empathy into my self-absorbed head. I really regret how I treated my stepmother. Whether she loved me or not, she acted like a parent more than my own mother ever had. Raising me was a thankless and difficult task that she didn’t have to do. For years she fought to keep me from falling into my family history of drugs and depression. I don’t think I could have done the same thing in her place (one of the reasons I will never have children). I want to thank her, but I’m afraid to. She’s moved on with her life and has a new marriage and new kids. I don’t want to bring up old ghosts. I think my dad may have abused her. I know I did—cursed her, threw things, and was generally a nightmare. I knew better, but I was so angry that I just wanted to hurt someone. She was the only one there. There is no excuse for that. Should I reach out? Or would I be hurting her more?
—Too Late to Say Thank You