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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am in a situation similar to the one described by "Can't Forget in L.A.," whose parents lied about the date of their marriage. I recently learned that my family is caught up in the same scenario.

My sister had told me she believed our family had a secret -- and she suspected it was our parents' date of marriage. Until then, I'd never questioned this, so without telling anyone, I did a little detective work. When I received a certified copy of my parents' marriage license, it indicated that they were married nearly four months later than they had told us all these years. This means that my mother was pregnant when they married.

My parents have had a long and happy marriage, so I was neither horrified nor "damaged" to learn that they, too, were somewhat less than perfect in their younger years.

Abby, should I tell them I know the truth? -- GLAD TO KNOW THE TRUTH

DEAR GLAD TO KNOW: This is your parents' "secret" and one which they have chosen to keep. Respect their wishes and say nothing.

DEAR ABBY: Please permit me, a retired Canadian archbishop, to express my great satisfaction with the letters you publish. I spend several months a year in Fort Myers, Fla., and enjoy reading your articles every day.

I admire your wisdom and compassion in responding to your readers. You exercise a ministry of charity toward the most afflicted people of our society. You are often their only relief and support.

Abby, please accept my gratitude and admiration. I authorize you to publish this letter, if you wish.

With the expression of my sincere friendship ... JEAN-MARIE FORTIER, ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS OF SHERBROOKE, QUEBEC

DEAR ARCHBISHOP FORTIER: Thank you for the compliment. I have never considered what I do to be a "ministry." I have always regarded it as a privilege.

Although I'm sure that many of those who read my column do so for its entertainment value, I also know that many people read it for comfort or because they're seeking answers to their own problems. Many of them are not aware of the help that is available in their own communities.

Over the years, readers have told me that they have learned from me. However, I see it the other way around. They teach me -- every day -- through their letters. So, I am the one who has learned from them.

DEAR ABBY: While driving through Visalia, Calif., on our way to Sequoia National Forest, I noticed that some of the farmers have signs along their fences depicting the name of the vegetable, fruit, grain, etc., which they are growing. Being a city girl, I found this to be very educational. Even the elderly ladies riding in the car with me commented that they never knew what an almond tree looked like until then.

Therefore, I am asking you to help educate America by calling on the farmers, growers and orchard owners to put up those signs letting America know just what that crop is they are growing. Young and old alike certainly will benefit from this simple gesture. -- MARLENE ZENSEN, STEVENSON RANCH, CALIF.

DEAR MARLENE: I'm from Iowa, so when I see acres of something growing, I assume it's corn -- and I'm usually right!

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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