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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I work in a local government office as a comptroller and have many longtime friends in the office. I am disabled, Abby. I was born club-footed and with a short leg, which requires me to wear a specially molded shoe and walk with a cane. One gentleman, who is soon to marry a co-worker, asked that I be in the bridal party.

The problem: I overheard the bride-to-be talking to the office receptionist about my participation in the wedding. She said she would be embarrassed to have me "clump down the aisle, dragging that horrible shoe"! Those were her exact words. Needless to say, I am heartbroken that a fellow worker, who always seemed nice to my face, would say something so cruel behind my back. Yes, I am fully aware that I must wear this "horrible" thing to walk, but I never thought I would be talked about in such an unkind manner.

I have decided to beg off, but don't want to start a flap over this. How can I bow out gracefully? I feel I should say something in defense of disabled people everywhere, but discretion tells me to keep my hurt and anger to myself. Please advise. -- CONFUSED IN KINGSTON, N.Y.

DEAR CONFUSED: You would be doing your longtime co-worker a favor by leveling with him about overhearing his fiancee object to your participation in the wedding because of your disability. Tell him that, under the circumstances, you must decline his gracious invitation.

Knowing the truth could cause him to change his mind about marrying someone so self-centered and with so little compassion. If not, at least he'd be warned in advance.

DEAR ABBY: We will be sending wedding invitations soon. Do you send a mother who has moved in with her daughter a separate invitation, or do you include her as "and family"? I always thought "and family" referred to minor children only. What's the proper etiquette? -- CONFUSED IN KENTUCKY

DEAR CONFUSED: Adult members of the household -- a parent or a grown child -- should receive a separate invitation.

DEAR ABBY: The letters about children's reactions to how babies are made reminded me of my son's reaction when he was 4. I was a single mother in college at the time. He enjoyed looking at my biology books while I studied. One day he saw a picture of fertilization, so upon his request I explained how babies get started using the pictures in the biology book.

He looked me right in the eye and asked how the daddy cell got in the momma in the first place. Cool as a cucumber, I asked him how he thought it got there. He thought for a moment, then told me his version that so touched my heart that I became misty:

Babies get started in the daddy's heart. The daddy looks at the mommy with a special kind of love. He takes her hand, and the sperm leaves the daddy's heart, goes through his wedding ring while he is holding his wife's hand, to her heart, where it stays to soak up their love a little while, then travels to her uterus, where it starts to grow. And this is how babies are made! I thought it was one of the sweetest things I have ever heard. -- ALY IN EDMONDS, WASH.

DEAR ALY: I agree. And if you think about the symbolism -- he wasn't really so far wrong. (On the other hand, it makes one realize how important a thorough sex education is for young people.)

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