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Dear Annie

When to reveal paternity?

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: About 65 years ago, my 20-year-old sister, “Pat,” had an affair with a married man that resulted in the birth of my nephew, “Harry.” The married man, of course, deserted her. Soon after Harry was born, Pat met a slightly older divorced man named “Sam.” Sam married Pat and accepted Harry as his own. They went on to have three children of their own and lived together as a family until they both died.

Harry looks nothing like his siblings, who all look very much like their father, Sam. The problem is that Pat made everyone in the family promise that they would never tell Harry about his real father. Pat was forceful and domineering, and everyone was afraid of her. So, the family secret was never revealed and rarely talked about.

Pat was also mentally and physically abusive to her children, especially Harry. Now that she is dead, I’m torn. Do I broach the subject with Harry or let it lie? My nephew is in his 60s, and I’m in my 70s. It’s possible that he knows but is embarrassed to bring it up. But he speaks about Sam like he was his real father, so I think that might not be the case.

I’m also concerned that he may go on one of the heritage sites and find that his DNA does not match the rest of the family and hold me responsible for not telling him.

Harry has children and grandchildren himself, so I feel that I owe it to them, too, but I don’t want to risk ruining my relationship with him or worse, shocking him and ruining his life. — Concerned Uncle

Dear Concerned Uncle: Sixty-five years is a very long time ago. Unless Harry asks you about his biological father — and I use the term “biological” because it sounds like Sam was his father — I believe it’s not your place to share this information, barring a serious health issue. You would be stirring the pot for no reason.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.