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by Abigail Van Buren

Loving Parents Cherished No Matter What Their Age

DEAR READERS: Yesterday I printed the negative responses I received when I asked readers about their experiences as children of older parents. Today I'm printing the positive. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My dad was 46 when I was born. He was the most patient, loving father in the world. He'd show up at school when I was younger, take movies of me playing sports and running. We hiked the Grand Canyon, fished, played softball together all my life. He was always there for me, as well as for my daughter. I sent him a dozen roses for his 81st birthday last April and told him how much I loved him. He passed away 2 1/2 weeks later. So, Abby, tell those people in Texas to go for it! -- BONNIE ARVONITIS, VISTA, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a child born to my mother when she was 40. I lost her when she was 70. My parents filled each holiday with so much enthusiasm, all our friends wanted to share them with us. And they did. When I think of all the unwanted children born to younger parents, I know that when one chooses to have a family at 40, it's because children are WANTED. My father died at the age of 59. I was 21, and yes, I would like to have had him longer. But again, the years I had with him were treasured -- and 59 is very young, especially now that I am 59! -- BARBARA SHOOP, HOLLYWOOD, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: At age 44, my mother announced to her doctor that she might be pregnant with her seventh child. Without bothering to examine her, he informed her she was going through "the change." A few months later, Mother returned and said, "If I'm not pregnant, what is moving around in my stomach?" That was me!

When I was born, my mother was 45 and my father was 57. I was born healthy despite my mother's age, her lack of prenatal care in the first trimester, the fact that she contracted hepatitis during the pregnancy, and consequently had X-rays while I was in there.

Mama was viewed by neighbors as if she had done something immoral or disgusting. Wasn't it bad enough when she had my sister (her sixth) at 39?

Sure, there were times when I was embarrassed by my white-haired parents, especially as a teen-ager. But what teen-agers aren't embarrassed by their parents at some time or another, regardless of age?

Mama is now 75. I am 30 with a family of my own. We are very close. Mama has some health problems, but she's active and independent. I will never regret that she gave me life. My advice to "To Be or Not to Be?" BE! -- MAMA'S BABY IN FLORIDA

DEAR ABBY: My mother was 38 when I was born. She was 44 when I started grade school, and 56 when I graduated from high school. Her age was never an issue or a source of embarrassment. Ours was the house all the kids came to after school, the house that hosted the slumber parties, bake sales -- you name it. Ours was the house where everyone felt comfortable.

Mother was my best friend. We traveled together, talked on the phone almost every day, shopped together, laughed together and cried together. She died in 1995, at the age of 81. I miss her every day.

Advanced age doesn't preclude one's being a good parent. It depends on the individual. Although I lost my mother sooner than I would have wished, I never forget how lucky I was to have her. -- MARY-LOVE BIGONY, AUSTIN, TEXAS

DEAR MARY-LOVE AND DEAR READERS: To sum it up, in the words of Julie Petrus, of Pflugerville, Texas: "The question is not whether you're too old to have children -- it's what kind of parent are you going to be when you do have children?"

Thank you for the outpouring of heartfelt letters on this subject. I regret that space limitations prevent my printing more of them.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600