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by Abigail Van Buren

Son's Name Change Is Slap in the Face to His Family

DEAR ABBY: We just found out that one of our sons changed his last name. What a terrible blow to our family. We found out very painfully when his wife had a baby. We went to the hospital to see the newest member of our family and couldn't find a "Mrs. Barry Nofzinger." However, there WAS a "Mrs. Barry Gibson."

Barry had used the name "Gibson" before, when he was in sales. He said it was much easier to remember than Nofzinger. He never indicated that he was considering changing his name. When he remarried two years ago, he still used the name Nofzinger. As far as we know, the name change occurred prior to our grandson's birth.

When we asked why, he told us his current wife (Barry was married before) didn't want to be the "second" Mrs. Nofzinger. The funny thing is, Barry's first wife remarried long before our son met or married his current wife. She has used her present husband's name for years.

Barry contends that we're making too much of this. He expects his relationship with us will remain as it has always been. In fact, he expects his son to have the same kind of relationship with us that we have with our other grandchildren.

We have been good parents, Abby. We have given our love and support unconditionally to all our children. I pray that I can continue doing that, but right now, I'm so full of anger, pain and shame that I wonder if it wouldn't be best if I told our son we would prefer never to see him again.

Barry's father is very hurt, and his brothers are also upset. He's unable to understand why we feel this way.

Perhaps someday I won't feel like I have been slapped in the face every time I see "Gibson" instead of "Nofzinger" after his name. Please help me to let go of my anger. -- SEEING RED IN OREGON

DEAR SEEING RED: William Shakespeare was right when he said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." It's no sin to change one's name -- and your son's having done so is no reflection upon how he feels about his siblings and you. You're making a mountain out of a molehill.

You say you're wondering if it wouldn't be best to tell your son you'd prefer never to see him again. Be careful what you wish for.

DEAR ABBY: Christmas is around the corner. Because our first child was due at Thanksgiving, I planned ahead and did as much of my shopping in advance as I could. The problem is, my husband's family expects everyone to buy presents for everyone else. This means we have to buy for 20 people! I don't mind buying for his parents and siblings, and even his grandparents, but the aunts, uncles and cousins are killing me.

We've bought everyone presents for the past two years and are still paying off credit cards from last year's purchases. I still have my parents and siblings to buy for, too. Money is tight because I'm off work now and will return to work only part time in a few months.

Abby, I don't see how we can afford to continue this tradition. My husband won't let me say anything to his family. Can you give me some advice? -- WANTING A SIMPLER CHRISTMAS

DEAR WANTING: Only this: If you continue trying to adhere to his family's "traditions," your little family will never be out of debt, and your financial burdens will continue to grow until they crush you. Since your husband won't "let" you explain this to his family, perhaps he will consent to accompany you to some credit counseling sessions. I hope they'll help him see the light.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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