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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My father was born 50 years ago, and only learned the truth about his birth in the last few years.

The woman he always believed was his mother was, in fact, his grandmother. His older "sister" was really his mother. She was 16 when she became pregnant by a young soldier who denied responsibility.

His grandmother, a strong-willed woman, took his mother to another state and pretended she had given birth. She was deeply ashamed of her daughter, and went to great lengths to carry out the plan. She wrote letters home to relatives informing them of her "surprise" pregnancy -- even describing her terrible morning sickness.

Abby, my father has been estranged from both women since learning the truth. My great-grandmother is 88 years old. I pray that our family can be healed before it's too late. Dad is angry, betrayed and bitter. He refuses to discuss the matter, much less forgive. The saddest part is that some family members have told me they knew the truth all along, but kept silent.

His grandmother felt the charade was the only thing she could do under the circumstances. However, this kind of deception reverberates through several generations. -- SECRETS ARE DANGEROUS IN NEW YORK

DEAR SECRETS: I feel sorry for everyone involved in this fiasco. Your grandmother was trying to protect her daughter's reputation, because in 1950 being unmarried and a mother was considered a disgrace to the girl and her family. She was trying to protect your father, too, by bringing him up when her daughter couldn't, and from the knowledge that he was born out of wedlock.

He should have been told the truth more than 30 years ago. But family secrets sometimes have a life of their own, and she probably couldn't find the words by the time he was an adult.

That your father is bitter and hurt because he was lied to about his history is understandable. However, some sessions with his clergyman or a therapist might help him to let go of his anger and forgive the deception -- before it's too late.

DEAR ABBY: Please settle a disagreement between me and my fiance. Several of his co-workers have had weddings recently, with more to come. It is their practice to invite only their co-workers, stressing that no spouses or significant others are invited. This is not true of their other guests, only their co-workers. I have heard they believe the people from work are not as much fun when their spouses or dates are around.

All these weddings have been in halls with light buffets or appetizers and cash bars. They are always held at night with a DJ and dancing. They are not formal.

My fiance's co-workers are almost all female. Therefore, he's the only dancing partner for 10 to 15 women who are without their husbands or boyfriends.

I think this practice is extremely rude. My fiance believes it is their prerogative and the "modern" way of doing things. What do you think? -- STEAMED IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR STEAMED: People usually limit their guest list because of budgetary concerns. Your fiance is correct that it's the host's privilege to issue such an invitation. All the same, to invite only half of a committed couple (a spouse or fiance) to a wedding where there's music and dancing is a breach of etiquette. To quote the lyrics of Irving Berlin, he should be able to "change partners and dance" -- with you if he wishes.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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