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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I loved the recent letter from the woman who received a family history from her grandmother as a Christmas gift. You responded that a family history is a treasured gift. I agree with you completely. However, there is an aspect of having a family history that many people do not think is necessary. I am referring to the need for some adult adoptees to know about their birth family.

My husband is an adoptee in his late 40s. He was a teacher for more than 20 years and is now a middle school administrator. We raised a handicapped child who, for many years, was the top priority in our lives. She is now grown and is also a teacher.

My husband did not search for his birth family until he was well over 40 years old. We knew nothing about these people. What we found was a wonderful family genealogy of his birth family that revealed pioneer Virginia families, and birth grandparents who were educators. We worked hard to trace the birth family back to the 1700s.

When adoptees search for their heritage, it is an act of fulfillment, not necessarily to disrupt the birth families. We have had the pleasure of meeting most of my husband's birth relatives, but the discovery of his "roots" has really been the best of bonuses. My husband was raised an only child. Now he has two wonderful half-brothers who have been fascinated with their family history that we found, parts of which they were unaware of.

Abby, thank you for any support that you can give adult adoptees who want to know about their families of origin. It gives them courage when others see why all aspects of family are important to the adult adoptee. -- AN ADOPTEE'S WIFE IN RICHMOND, VA.

DEAR WIFE: My heart aches for the many "older" people who were adopted as infants, but because their families falsely regarded the circumstances of their birth (unwed mothers) as somehow disgraceful, they have been denied information concerning their parentage.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding "Hurting and Hoping, Fort Worth, Texas," whose son mysteriously disappeared five years ago, leaving his family to wonder if he was dead or alive: I had the same experience.

My son was staying at my sister's home when he went out one evening and never returned. At first we assumed it was a temporary disappearance, but as time went on, we realized it was for real.

For five years, I heard not one word, and I visualized everything from prison to death. The anxiety of not knowing is indescribable. Finally around the fifth year, I gave up and said to my Lord, "I am turning it over to you"; then I put it out of my mind.

In September of the fifth year, I received a letter, and the thrill of recognizing his handwriting on an envelope made my heart want to jump right out of my chest! His letter said that he was coming home and would be at the airport at a certain time on a specific day.

Of course I was there to meet him, and I have never questioned him as to where he had been or the reason for his silence. I felt that since the Lord had answered my prayers, who was I to question him?

He is now a respectable young man, holding a good job and sending me letters of appreciation constantly.

So to "Hurt and Hoping," don't give up. Keep praying. -- FAITHFUL FROM FRESNO

DEAR FAITHFUL: Thank you for writing. Your letter is a testament to the power of faith, hope and prayer.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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