My sister’s husband’s mother passed away recently. I brought my kids to school in the morning, drove forty-five minutes to attend the funeral, and then hopped right back in the car to drive forty-five minutes to pick my kids up again. I don’t really know my sister’s father-in-law; I mostly went to be respectful to my brother-in-law and my sister.
My sister called me this morning and said I need to apologize to her father-in-law. She said he is upset that I didn’t stay very long and didn’t personally express my condolences to him. I drove an hour and a half on a week day just to attend the services of a woman I’ve met once in my life; what more does this man want from me? I have to say, I’m upset not only that he thinks I didn’t do enough, but that my sister seems to be taking his side and didn’t defend me to him. Do I really have to apologize?
My general policy regarding people who march around demanding apologies is that they should be either ignored, subtly mocked to their faces, or if you’re really good, both.
This is a special circumstance, though. The poor guy’s wife just died, and your sister-in-law is in a tough spot. Everyone is sad. I think you can assume one of two things here: your sister’s father-in-law is a.) out of his mind with grief or b.) a shitty person. If the situation is the first, then maybe you don’t have to actually call him up and apologize, but the next time you see him say, “I’m so upset that I didn’t get to speak with you at Judy’s funeral. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am for your loss. She was such a special lady.” Or you could write this in a card and send it. Not too much trouble for you, and lots of goodness for your sister and her husband’s dad. If the situation is the latter, and this guy is really such an ass noodle that he’s spending his wife’s funeral keeping tabs on who’s there and who’s sorrier, he’s got issues, and they’re too big for you to deal with. Tell your sister to tell him you’re quite sorry you couldn’t spend more time with them on such a sad day, and forget about it.
I’m inclined to believe the first. People do crazy things when they’re sad.