My sister’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Along with his oncologist, he consulted frequently with his twin brother, who is a doctor. They decided he should have surgery, and then an eight-week course of specialized radiation that is available only at a handful of hospitals. His twin lives near one of them, and he invited my brother-in-law to stay with him and his wife in their large home for eight weeks. The day before my brother-in-law was set to drive there, his twin called and said he could stay with them only if he apologized to his wife for a letter he wrote 30 years earlier, shortly after his son died. (My brother-in-law doesn’t remember this letter or anyone referring to it before.) His twin said: “I have to choose between you and my marriage.” My brother-in-law says he understands, but my sister is heartbroken for him. Doesn’t the twin have to keep his word and let his brother stay at his house?
Aren’t you overlooking a simpler solution than a showdown over forced houseguests? Your brother-in-law could tell his brother’s wife that he has no memory of the letter. (It was written decades ago, after all, during a painful period in his life.) Still — and this is the important part — he could also say that, if she is willing to discuss the issue, he will certainly apologize for any hurt he caused.
I understand your focus on your sister’s distress. She’s your sister! But neither illness nor prior invitation voids a person’s right to decide who will stay in her home. And it would be a mistake, in my view, to insist that medical treatment or the passage of time requires people to bury deeply held feelings.
Now, we can quibble over what should have happened 30 years ago and how we may prioritize these issues differently. But it’s often wise to take people up on their suggestions about how to resolve conflicts with them. Here, a woman has asked for an apology. If your brother-in-law can make one sincerely, that seems like the best way to secure his lodging and heal his relationship with his sister-in-law, no?