DEAR ABBY: While I was growing up, my mother was married several times. Unfortunately, over the years I lost contact with my stepfathers. Every year around the holidays, I think back with fondness on these men who shaped my life. I wish I could tell each of them that their presence, however brief, had a lasting effect on me.
To the bank manager I would ascribe my own successful career in banking.
The one who insisted that I eat my vegetables would be amazed to learn that I've become a vegetarian.
I would say to the hard worker who juggled two jobs to support us, that by his example, he instilled a strong work ethic in me.
My biological dad would be thanked for many things, not the least being his faithfulness. He sent the child support checks for 15 years without fail for a child across the country he was barely allowed to know. I always knew he cared.
I feel lucky to have learned so many things from such fine men. -- GRATEFUL TO ALL MY DADS
DEAR GRATEFUL: If childhood is a learning experience, yours was not wasted. I'm printing your letter of gratitude as a reminder for fathers, both absent and present, that children are taught by the examples the adults in their lives have set for them.
DEAR ABBY: Five years ago, my sister "Emmy," who has two children, married "Brad," a man with three kids of his own. The children were close in age -- 7 to 10. Now they're almost all teen-agers.
Emmy recently separated from Brad and is considering divorce. The main reason seems to be that Brad's children are disrespectful and disobedient, and are getting into trouble at school. Emmy says she's tired of being "the wicked stepmother" trying to discipline them without any help from him. Brad is very easygoing, and his children do have some behavioral and emotional problems.
I don't want my sister to be unhappy. She should do whatever she thinks is right for herself, her son and daughter. Frankly, if she can't deal with her stepchildren, perhaps they're better off without her as well.
My problem is, I like Brad and I'm fond of his kids. For five years I've considered them part of our family. I feel very uncomfortable suddenly having to treat them like outcasts. Emmy feels that if I continue to see them, I'm taking his side and not supporting her.
Personally, I'm happily married, with a new baby who is very popular with his "step" cousins. I'd appreciate hearing what you think. -- BETWIXT AND BETWEEN
DEAR BETWIXT: The root of your sister's unhappiness is her husband's unwillingness to accept his responsibility as a parent, and it has sabotaged the marriage. Small wonder the children have problems! It's interesting that you are not more sympathetic to the battle she has been through during the last five years, nor more protective of her feelings.
What you decide to do in the long run is up to you. However, until your sister decides whether to continue or end the marriage, in the interest of family loyalty, I think you should back her up.
Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
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