Ominously titled document belonging to a family member - should I read it or not?

TaerakTaerak Registered User regular
edited December 2016 in Help / Advice Forum
So first off, this is not really how I was expecting to spend my evening. I'm a lurker around here, but I don't really have a wide group of friends I can ask for an opinion, so I'd greatly appreciate some help from people who are generally a lot wiser than I am.

My dad recently gave me his old computer. He formatted it, but it was still tied to his account so I was in the process of transferring it to mine before my yearly extended trip home. I just switched the account being used to mine when a popup for a popular backup program came up, which I clicked so it would stop bugging me with the tutorial.

As it turns out, the folder was still synced to my dad's account. In the root folder was an ominously titled doc called chance of survival. It was created very recently - and dated between me first using the computer months ago, and today.

Some background info:

My dad's a (highly) functional alcoholic who started drinking at a young age. He suffers from symptoms that are clearly related to alcohol abuse, but none that impede his daily life. However, he's gone through a rough patch at work recently (can't be too specific about it) and a result he's started drinking more. (But never during work, which I knew and his colleagues have always backed up.)

At one point me and my mum started talking about this (as we often do) and this time she revealed that he was denied life insurance at a young age. We've talked before about his habits and how he might not be around much longer, but this was still shocking to me. She also mentioned that he ignores serious illnesses unless until his hand is forced - in some cases by his boss and co-workers. She asked me to talk to him about his alcohol abuse and health habits, and I did - I was planning to anyway, but I just never had the courage to do it. The conversation went fairly well and was long and involved, but I knew going in you can't change habits with a single conversation - though I did manage to get his permission to talk to him about it more openly.

As you might imagine, looking at this document, I have a fairly lively and imaginative idea of what might be in it. So, do I open it?

On one hand, I wasn't supposed to see it, and if I did, I'd be invading his privacy, betraying his trust, and (the least convincing argument to myself here) taking away something he might be preparing to tell me in the next two weeks. It could also very well be nothing.

On the other hand, he has a difficult time with emotionally charged situations and avoids health problems as much as possible. Making the assumption that this is something to be worried about, I can easily see him not telling my mum and I for a very long time. If I know what's in the file, I could theoretically prod him to open up and get something started. And even if I don't, forewarned is forearmed. But truth be told, I'm not sure if I could handle several weeks of silence around the issue. Of course, if I don't open it... not sure if I can stand that either.

I'm really not sure what the best option is here, but I am definitely leaning towards the latter. For now, I've copied the file, removed my access to his backup program account, and deleted the rest of the folder.

I'm in the European timezone, so I am afraid I won't be able to reply till morning. Still, any advice and perspective would help massively. Thanks in advance.

EDIT: I guess there's a third option: tell him I saw the file and that I didn't open it. I guess that might be what I am leaning towards now?

Taerak on


  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    I think I'd go with the third option if I was in your place.

    Granted, I don't know about your relationship with your parents. But it sounds like you have a good relationship where you trust each other. Letting him know you found this file didn't open it sounds like the way to go

    That said, I'd suggest you don't say that you wanted to open it, just that you saw it there, thought it might have been important and wanted to be sure it was safe to delete it.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    RayzeCommander ZoomGnizmoBliss 101QuidShadowfireElvenshaeBurnageSkeithEncGiggles_FunsworthAPODionysusTaerakspool32Gnome-InterruptusLeon2309
  • AstaerethAstaereth In the belly of the beastRegistered User regular
    Open it. The more information you have, the better you answer the actual important question, which is not 'should I open this' but 'how do I talk to my father about this?'

    Most likely you'll end up going with option three anyway--which, it should be noted, includes telling him you didn't open it. (Note: if you can't lie like that, obviously don't open it.) But you should be forewarned so you know how to respond if he says "Oh it's nothing."

    The question you have to ask yourself is, can your father be trusted to handle his own health decisions or not? If you think he might need pressure from you to deal with a threatening health issue, that should outweigh the privacy concern.

    If you think your father should have total control and privacy when it comes to his own health, then this situation is really just about you and your anxiety over this discovery. As you say, it's a matter of what you can stand, the agony of not knowing or the pain of confronting him about it? In that case, see317 has the right idea--but be aware you will (and should in this line of thinking) end up with the agony of not knowing.

    Whatever you do, good luck. I hope it turns out to be nothing.

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    Open the document, read it if you see a need to but be prepared to keep that information to yourself until your dad is ready to talk about it. That doesn't mean you can't ask him if things are okay or give him an opening to talk about his health. In my case, my depressed alcoholic mom had cancer and was hiding it because she was suicidal, her neighbor found her drunk one day and got her talking, the neighbor then informed me and I got to have a series of the most difficult conversations in my life. It was worth knowing in my opinion.

    It could also just be a pirated e-book and not worth worrying about.

  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    edited December 2016
    If you go with option three there's a chance your dad may volunteer whatever information there is (or you could prod him a bit), and if he avoids serious emotional situations you could do major damage to your relationship with him by reading it behind his back if he were to get wind of that later.

    Skeith on
    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
  • TOGSolidTOGSolid Drunk sailor Seattle, WashingtonRegistered User regular
    edited December 2016
    I think option three is probably the best route. You can ask, potentially get a conversation and figure out where to go from there, while still having the option of reading it for more information if you suspect he's trying to get you to ignore something awful. Also, you'll be coming in being upfront and honest about it which will almost always helps generate either a productive conversation or allows him an easy way out with no harm no foul since you're being truthful about having seen it but not read it.

    Having that information already, if it turns out to be bad, can lead to an emotionally charged conversation that results in a wedge forming and could close off potentially much needed avenues since you'll be coming in with even more of an emotional burden that frequently causes these sort of discussions to go unintentionally sour. The sort of people that could pull off using the information to metagame the conversation while playing convincingly dumb would have just gone and done that from the get go and this thread exists soooooo yeah. Option three all the way.

    TOGSolid on
  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    Option three. It's possible your dad will keep the information to himself. But that's a choice you should respect even if it's frustrating.

  • Lindsay LohanLindsay Lohan Registered User regular
    I'm going to be completely truthful and agree that option three is the right thing to do but admit that I absolutely would open it because I'm far too weak to actually take option three myself.

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    I'm going to be completely truthful and agree that option three is the right thing to do but admit that I absolutely would open it because I'm far too weak to actually take option three myself.

    Depending on the father's mental state, thinking of this in terms of right and wrong isn't a good idea.

  • ArbitraryDescriptorArbitraryDescriptor Registered User regular
    edited December 2016
    The doc turned up on your computer? Read it.

    Best case scenario: Its contents prompt an intervention that saves your dad's life.

    Worst case: Your dad is annoyed?

    What, honestly, is the worst case scenario here?

    "I can't believe you read a mysteriously titled document that mysteriously appeared on your computer!"

    "No, wait, I guess I can believe that. Stupid cloud sync."

    I can't fathom this actually being a big deal in my family; who may be atypical, but they're the only reference family I've got.

    ArbitraryDescriptor on
  • TaerakTaerak Registered User regular
    edited December 2016
    Thanks for your answers all - I've been avoiding the thread for the better part of the workday because I knew I was going dwell on it otherwise, but it's reassuring to see that a lot of people think that either way, I shouldn't ignore this.

    I think I'll take the third option, and I definitely wouldn't open the file before talking to him about it. Having said that, considering my dad's phobia and general denial about his health, I'm not comfortable deleting the file outright. I will probably check to see if he's told me the truth or not (though I won't make him aware of that fact.) It's a shitty thing to hold over someone, but ultimately I live in a different country from my parents and I know from experience how hard it is to admit to a big issue over the phone. If there is something, he could hide it for years.

    If it turns out to be nothing in the end, then whatever. Don't even have to tell him I checked. If it's a bigger issue... I can always let my mum know. At the end of the day, she's the only one who can really help if there's something wrong - the best I can do is fly home a few times a year. I also don't think there will be any long-lasting effect if he does find out - he does avoid these conversations, but I have an excellent relationship with my parents and I've never had a fight that lasted more than an hour with my dad. It might take a beating for a bit, but I'm sure we can recover from any damage.

    I'm flying home on Wednesday, and he's picking me up from the airport. I don't think there's going to be a very convenient time to rip-off this band-aid, so hopefully I can do it in the first few days and relax after. With a bit of luck, I can report back and say that it was some old work docs regarding financial health or some such.

    Thanks again for your help - I can't really express how helpful it is to get somebody else's perspective.

    Taerak on
    ElvenshaeGiggles_Funsworthspool32Commander ZoomForar
  • TaerakTaerak Registered User regular
    The doc turned up on your computer? Read it.

    I can't fathom this actually being a big deal in my family; who may be atypical, but they're the only reference family I've got.

    Yeah, it's what I'd like to believe too, but honestly, I don't think a situation like this has ever come up. We've had heated arguments over everything from politics to chores in my family, but this has been completely new.

    It it was me it'd be a-okay with it, but that's always the danger.

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    It may not be related to his health at all. To be honest I don't think a doctor complying with HIPAA would share that kind of information via email, and I doubt he'd take the time to specially make up a document about it.

    He might be a closet prepper or comparing the safety records of companies that offer skydiving lessons or a book he's writing. It's probably better if you don't take the title of the document with you all the way to the conclusion that he's dying... at least without more evidence to that effect than just the title and your own concern for his health.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • TaerakTaerak Registered User regular
    Yeah, I am probably projecting a lot of my own fear into this. As you say, it doesn't make a whole lot of rational sense now that you've pointed it out.

    Still, better safe than sorry. Tomorrow's the day, probably.

  • TaerakTaerak Registered User regular
    Figured I should give an update on this; I ended up asking my dad about this and turns out Ceres was totally correct and I totally let my panic at his general health get the better of it. Turns out it was related to his job after all. Double checked the file and it's legit.

    Guess the thread can be closed!

This discussion has been closed.