Dear Harlan: My parents have been keeping medical secrets from my siblings and me. When I was home over the holiday I discovered that my mom had a heart issue several months ago. This was news to all of us kids. We are all adult children with families of our own. My parents didn’t want us to worry. My mom had a blockage and was treated with a stint. She made a full recovery, but underwent a serious medical procedure without our knowledge. She didn’t want us to fuss over her and come into town. I explained that it wouldn’t be a fuss at all. She is my mother, and I love her and want to be with her. As my parents get older, I’m afraid they will continue to keep these secrets from me. It’s hard to be across the country. How can I get them to see that keeping health a secret is not helpful? It makes it more upsetting to not have this information.

— Shielded Son

Dear Shielded Son,

Your parents are new to this getting older thing. Dealing with aging and illness is even more uncomfortable. Including the kids can be even more uncomfortable. Including the family raises the stakes. It makes it real — too serious. They might be scared. As long as your parents are competent and able to take care of themselves, you can still hope they will listen. Instead of asking them to change, ask them why they didn’t want to include the kids. Explain why you want to know if there are health issues. Ask them if there is anything you could do to make it more comfortable for them to keep you informed. Ask them who they do talk to in these situations to find support (an aunt, uncle, friend, etc.). Connect with that person and let him or her know that you’re open to being included and involved. Spend more time listening and less time telling them what you want. Aging can be uncomfortable for everyone — especially your parents.

Dear Harlan,

In response to you and “Compelled’s” responses on racism, ignorance and so-called “real world reasons” a parent might be reluctant to bless a child’s relationship with someone of a different race, we have to first acknowledge that race isn’t real ... it is a social construct. It is not science. It was a concept invented by people for specific purposes, mainly to dehumanize “others” to allow for colonization, exploitation, etc. We must acknowledge this to see how the idea of “race” is used to maintain power and access to resources and opportunities at the exclusion of those we deem different. Compelled’s argument about reverse racism is a result of such a belief that racism is merely individual bias. It is not. If a white boy feels excluded from his in-laws of a different “race,” that won’t affect his ability to get a loan, a job, or increase the likelihood he is read as dangerous by police and murdered as a result. Let’s not be naive. Us white folks have work to do. It starts by acknowledging the reality so we can then actively take steps to change it.

— Let’s Be Real

Dear Lets Be Real,

We need to change this. According to the FBI, hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. I can’t defend, justify or tolerate racism in any form. Acknowledging this reality is the biggest step in creating lasting change.

* * *

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Text Harlan your questions and responses to

321-345-9070, write Harlan at harlan(at) or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 2720 Dundee Road, Suite 226, Northbrook, IL 60062.

© Harlan Cohen 2019

Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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