DEAR ABBY: I have a gripe to air, and I hope you will consider printing it.
A few times a year, my adult son is allowed to visit me from his residence in a group home for the mentally disabled in another state. Despite his severe handicap, "John" is a well-behaved and loving son, of whom I am quite proud. Therein lies the problem.
When we are walking together in public, John will often grab my hand, as he did when he was a child, innocently unaware of the social taboos against such behavior.
Many times I have had to endure stares, snickers or outright insults from strangers who apparently interpret this hand-holding as homosexual bonding.
The emotional trauma of our separation due to divorce, distance and his institutionalization is enough pain for both of us. I don't want to forcibly remove my hand from my son's simply to avoid the mistaken notions of thoughtless people who have no idea what it means to suffer a cognitive disability.
Perhaps if there are any such judgmental souls among your legion of readers, they will think twice the next time they see two grown men holding hands in public. -- OHIO FATHER
DEAR FATHER: People who stare, snicker or insult strangers in public are hardly the kind of individuals who should be judging anyone else's behavior.
I hope they recognize themselves in your letter and, as you said, think twice before assuming anything and expressing any form of disapproval. People should never judge another until they have been down the same path.
DEAR ABBY: I have read, viewed and heard all that I can stand about nursing homes.
Your recent article, in which "Grieving in Orange, Texas" wrote about visiting nursing homes and the need for volunteers, angered me to the point of writing this letter. The writer states that she heard the residents crying out for their family members by name all night.
I have been in the nursing home business for years. For six of those years, I worked for Iowa's largest nursing home chain. I have visited many nursing homes statewide and never once experienced what this lady is talking about. Most nursing homes have staffs with hearts bigger than Texas. They, in a sense, become like family to the residents and the residents' families. The staffs care so much that they are usually with the residents at the time of death if no family is available.
Bottom line is that I'm tired of picking up the paper or turning on TV and hearing something negative about nursing homes. We care. We really do. Give us a break.
If you're looking for a good story, come to my nursing home. I will show you a dedicated staff and a nursing home full of satisfied residents. I know there are lots of homes around just like it. -- MICHELLE PALMER, R.N., ADMINISTRATOR, LENOX CARE CENTER, LENOX, IOWA
DEAR MICHELLE: Well said. Your letter deserves space in this column, so here it is!
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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