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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Thirty-six years ago, I gave birth and placed my baby girl for adoption. The father was going away to school and had no interest in me or the child. My parents were about to divorce, and my brother was in trouble with the law. I knew there was no way I could keep my daughter, so with a heavy heart I signed away my parental rights and tried to go on with my life. Eventually I married and had a son, who is now 32.

My mother has since moved in with my husband and me. Two weeks ago, a call came to the house while I was at work. Mom answered the phone. The woman calling was looking for her birth mother, and had information that I was, indeed, that woman!

Mother explained all this to me when I got home. As I was becoming more and more excited, she gave me the devastating news that she had told the woman that I had only ONE child -- a son -- and that I was NOT the person she was looking for. The caller continued to ask questions, but Mother denied all of the facts, and finally ended the call by hanging up on her.

I am crushed. For years, I have hoped for a call like that, but had not searched for my child because I did not want to invade her life or the lives of her adoptive parents. My mother was extremely judgmental and non-supportive when I was pregnant that first time, and the day my daughter was born, she pointed at my baby and said, "She is NOT coming home with us. I am NOT raising any more children."

Now I am desperate for my daughter to call again. I must find her! I have filed with the state adoption registry and private bureaus, called an attorney, and searched online. I pray that she will call back, so I can assure her that I love her and have thought about her every day since her birth.

My husband is anxious to welcome her into our lives. We are both heartbroken we may never have the chance. Mother has since come to understand what a grave injustice she performed -- for a second time.

Abby, please help. What more can I do? -- HEARTBROKEN IN EAST KANSAS

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Unfortunately, there is nothing more you can do. I hope your daughter sees this letter, puts two and two together and calls you again.

DEAR ABBY: Every year as the holidays roll around, my husband and I get the same speech from certain elderly relatives: "You HAVE to spend the holidays with us because it might be our last." I am so tired of this guilt trip being laid on us -- and I'm sure a lot of other people are, too.

Just because someone is old doesn't mean he or she is next in line to kick the bucket. When I explain to relatives that my husband and I wish to stay home and make only short visits to them during the holidays, someone always guilt-trips us and we cave in.

What can be done? -- TRAPPED IN BRANDON, FLA.

DEAR TRAPPED: I have a response for the people you feel are manipulating you, but before I offer it, I should remind you that what they are saying will at some point be true. When that happens, can you handle the guilt? If the answer to that is yes, then proceed:

The response to the statement, "You have to spend the holidays with us because it might be our last," is:

"Then it's all the more important that we start NOW to establish our own holiday traditions, because it will lessen our heartbreak when that happens. Please join us at OUR home."

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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