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by Abigail Van Buren

Second Wife Is Second Best in New Family's Affections

DEAR ABBY: When I married "John," his wife -- I'll call her Donna -- had been dead for seven years. She died at a young age from cancer. Before our marriage, I knew that he had several family pictures hanging on the walls. After our marriage, when I moved into his home, they remained.

I must admit, at first I felt a tiny bit of resentment that she was still "hanging around." However, after carefully thinking it through, I concluded that it was better that the pictures remain where they were. I realized that his grown children would appreciate the fact that I wasn't getting rid of everything of their mother's. I also realized that I would probably feel the same had my mother passed away and my father remarried.

I know John loves me, and we have a wonderful marriage. I also know that I'll never replace Donna. He loved her for many years, and I will always be second-best. John will be buried next to Donna when he dies. His children display many family pictures in their homes, as do his parents. Sometimes I feel a little sad, because when John sees these pictures everywhere, they bring back memories of him and Donna.

I would love it if John's parents would display our wedding picture on their wall, but they don't. Our pictures are in the photograph album, while pictures of John and Donna are on display. My in-laws loved Donna, as did everyone who knew her, but they also love me and we get along great. They are elderly now, and I wouldn't feel right asking them to remove Donna's pictures from their walls.

Although John and I haven't had years and years together and we're beyond having children of our own, I know I have a special place in his heart.

Donna is gone, but her memory is here to stay, as are her pictures. Sometimes when I look at her picture, I feel that she's smiling at me and saying, "Thanks for taking care of John -- he needed you!" Sign me ... SECOND LOVE, PLEASANT PLAIN, OHIO

DEAR SECOND LOVE: You have written a loving, compassionate letter, filled with beautiful sentiments. It's a celebration of the fact that life goes on.

Please try to banish the thought that you are "second-best." Although John had a long and happy marriage with Donna, Donna is gone and now he loves you. In this stage of his life, you are not second-best; you are first.

DEAR ABBY: My 79-year-old father visits our home and loves to work on projects like trimming bushes and repairing things. He gets very sweaty and takes frequent breaks by coming into the house and sitting in his favorite chair -- my cherished fabric-covered recliner. After his visits, my chair smells of sweat. I have had it cleaned twice, and now we are expecting him again.

I would like to put a large towel on the chair before he arrives, but my husband says Dad will be offended. Would this be rude? I doubt that my chair can take many more cleanings. -- LOOKING FOR A TACTFUL WAY

DEAR LOOKING: Purchase an inexpensive, washable throw or slipcover for your recliner. Your cherished chair will be protected and Dad will be none the wiser.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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