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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Confused by Ex Wife's Anger at His Dating a 'Kid'

DEAR ABBY: I am 53 and happily divorced. The reason: My wife cheated on me for years.

My question concerns a much younger woman with whom I've become involved. She is 20 years my junior, and lo and behold -- my ex-wife is hopping mad. She's accusing me of being out of my mind to be involved with a "kid" who's not that much older than our 20-something daughter.

Abby, this younger woman and I are getting serious. We have even discussed marriage. Is my ex-wife right? Am I being foolish? You know what they say -- there's no fool like an old fool. -- CONFUSED IN WEST SACRAMENTO

DEAR CONFUSED: What I say is this: Happiness is where you find it; age is a state of mind.

DEAR ABBY: I have once again consulted your wonderful "How to Write Letters for All Occasions" booklet in order to write a letter of sympathy. In it you wrote, "When a baby is stillborn, it is a traumatic experience for the parents. When friends and relatives ignore this tragedy (as many do, because 'we didn't want to bring it up for fear of making them sad'), the grieving parents feel hurt and abandoned."

Abby, this is also true when a child is placed for adoption. The decision is agonizing and the loss is profound. The mother experiences the pregnancy and birth and often bonds with her child in the limited time after birth that she has with him or her. Virtually every birth mother wants her child.

It takes courage for a woman to go through the often humiliating experience of placing her child for adoption. We mothers are not copping out or neglecting our children. We are trying to do what we think is best for our children.

I could name five families in our neighborhood who did not have the courage to do right by their children and let them go. Their children are berated and ignored and left alone to raise themselves. In the case of the more fortunate of these children, the neighbors guide the young people and show them the respect, encouragement and affection they so desperately need, and more important, deserve.

So, please, Abby, tell your readers that if they know someone who has been through the horrendous experience of losing a child, whether it be through death or adoption, they should offer their sympathy. It is a loss like no other. -- MARYLOU IN HOUSTON

DEAR MARYLOU: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the pain and loss you feel because of the sacrifice you made for the benefit of your child's future. Allowing your child to be raised by others took not only courage, but also a brutally realistic appraisal of your ability to provide for it. I salute you.

Thank you for pointing out that women who choose to allow a family to adopt their children need special support; however, for some women, the decision is a private one, and not all of them may welcome such a letter.

Readers, to purchase the booklet Marylou found helpful in writing a letter of sympathy, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letters Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600