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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a woman who has known my entire life that I was adopted. It made no difference to me.

Mom always answered any questions I had when I was curious about my birth parents. After my first child was born, I became curious and decided to see if I could find them. I talked it over with my mom. She encouraged me and even suggested ways I could try to find them. I had little money to spend on registries and investigators, nor did I want to be intrusive in case they had families who had not been told about me. I started registering with various adoption Web sites. After almost 10 years, I found my birth parents. They are wonderful people, and I'm happy to know them and for them to know me.

Now for the problem: When I told my mom I had found my birth parents, she was initially happy for me. Then, the very next day, she informed me that I was "messing with the foundation of the family" by doing this. I was devastated. I had never hidden the fact that I was searching. I love my parents dearly, but they have now put up a wall I can't breach, and they refuse to discuss it. They have started shutting me out of their family, to the point of failing to tell me my grandmother was dying until after she was gone.

I don't want my children to lose the only grandparents they have known their entire lives, but seeing me miserable every time we get together can't be good for them. How do I handle this? -- HURTING IN OHIO

DEAR HURTING: Although your mother initially helped you with your adoption search, on some level she never really thought you would find your birth parents. When you announced that you had, she felt threatened and betrayed, and (putting it mildly) overreacted and became punitive. Not telling you that your grandmother was dying was inexcusable.

Since she and your father won't discuss it, write them a letter. Tell them how much you love them and remind them that they are the only family you have ever known. Explain that you have no intention of hurting anyone. If that doesn't work, ask their clergyperson to intercede. If they don't have one, perhaps another trusted relative would do it for you.

If that doesn't work, then I agree that exposing your children to an atmosphere with an undercurrent of hostility is not healthy. Continue to cultivate a relationship with your birth parents and other relatives -- and know that you did what you could to heal the breach and go on with your life with a clear conscience.

DEAR ABBY: Please settle an argument: How long should one wait for somebody?

I recently had a date with a friend. We agreed to meet at a specific time and place. After my friend failed to arrive 15 minutes past the appointed time, I left. Evidently he showed up five minutes later.

Now he is annoyed with me. He says good manners require that one wait 30 minutes for friends or family and 15 minutes for business associates or new acquaintances.

What do you make of this, Abby? Some people are perpetually late, so I need some reasonable guidelines. -- CLOCK-WATCHER IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR CLOCK-WATCHER: Nowhere is it written that one "must" wait a certain amount of time for someone who is perpetually late. Common sense dictates that if someone knows he or she is running late, the person should call and inform whomever is waiting. (Almost everyone has a cellular phone or pager these days.)

P.S. I'll bet your friend is on time next time!

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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