DEAR ABBY: I am 50 years old, married for 28 years, and have two adult children -- the eldest 25. In 1967, my steady high school girlfriend, "Maggie," became pregnant with our baby. We were both in our junior year.
We planned a small church wedding when Maggie was three months pregnant. Our families were supportive, despite their disappointment. They offered emotional and financial assistance.
A few days before the wedding, I got cold feet. I knew I was not ready for marriage, and I told our minister, who told Maggie's parents. The wedding was canceled. Maggie was sent to a maternity home two states away. She gave birth to a son who was placed for adoption.
Maggie's father vowed I would never see his daughter again and would not allow her to return home. She was sent to live with relatives. Maggie and I did stay in contact through a friend during the year after the baby was born. The experience was never again mentioned in my family.
Abby, I am still haunted by my cowardice. My wife knows about my first child, but I have never told my children. Now that they are grown, I wonder if I should. My wife said she will support me, whatever my decision. Do you think telling them would place an unfair burden on them? -- REMORSEFUL BIRTH FATHER
DEAR REMORSEFUL: Telling your children about your youthful mistake would not be unfairly burdensome. On the contrary, it will prepare them in case their half-sibling shows up in the future.
And now a short sermon from me: You did the right thing in leveling with your minister that you were not ready for the responsibility of marriage. It's time for you to let go of the burden of guilt that you have been carrying all these years and learn to forgive yourself.
DEAR ABBY: As a 20-something wife and mother of one, I am facing a terrible problem.
I am desperately in love with another man. He is also my doctor. He isn't aware that I am in love with him, because I don't feel it's right to tell him under the circumstances. However, I find myself making pathetic excuses to call his office so I can hear his voice.
I finally confessed my feelings to my husband, then quickly recanted my confession, saying it was all a mistake. My spouse and I have drifted apart, and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to return his love and affection. I know it's because of my intense feelings for my doctor.
The truth is, I love two men -- one I'll never have, but want badly, and another who is a devoted husband and father of my child.
Is there any hope for me, Abby? I feel like the most deceitful woman who ever lived. I cannot continue carrying this secret. Please help me. -- MISERABLE IN MISSOURI
DEAR MISERABLE: Both men and women tend to idealize their doctors. And why not? They are usually caring, concerned, brilliant individuals who devote their lives to caring for others. If they are human and have feet of clay, the patient rarely sees that aspect of their personalities. Who wouldn't love a person who helps them when they're at their worst?
Is there any hope for you? It depends on what you're hoping for. But your best bet would be to change doctors and get into marriage counseling with your spouse.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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