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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Nurses Hurt and Hope for Son Who Walked Away

DEAR ABBY: My son (if he is still alive) will soon be 33. We have not heard from him in nearly five years. The pain of not knowing if he is OK is nearly unbearable. Sometimes I still break down and cry.

Nothing happens in our family that cannot be forgiven. I long to see his face or to hear his voice again. I have been to a counselor; I bought a book on finding lost people; I checked with the police for his driver's license, etc. I do not know where else to turn.

Last Christmas, I shopped for a needy child. It helped, but my heart is still heavy when I think of my son.

Now, when the subject of children comes up, I just tell the truth and say, "He left five years ago and I don't know whether he's alive or dead." Abby, it's painful to think about him.

I urge those who have separated themselves from their families to get in touch with them. You need not say where you are. You may think your family stops caring after a while, but that's not so. I'll never stop hurting. And I'll never stop hoping. In fact, sign me ... HURTING AND HOPING, FORT WORTH, TEXAS

DEAR HURTING: I'm hopeful your son will read your letter, recognize himself and contact you. Companies that perform computer search services may be able to locate your son. (They are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Information Specialists," "Information Brokers" or "Searchers of Public Records.")

Meanwhile, continue helping others: Participate in a community program for children in need, volunteer to read to children or teach a children's class at the library. Most hospital nurseries need volunteers to comfort sick infants. God bless you. I wish you well.