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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Secret Stash of Love Letters Has Uncertain Future

DEAR ABBY: My problem concerns what to do with a group of snapshots and a bundle of about 100 old love letters that I've hidden for more than 50 years. If they are found after my death, my heirs will be shocked.

I have treasured these mementos in my heart since I received the first, before I was shipped overseas in World War II. The letters continued up to December 1947 -- and in '98 and '99 I received three more that were ultra-special. They are the sincerest of love letters from the girl in the photographs.

Family interference separated us, even as we were planning to be married. Of course, life went on. I met my wife and we were married a few years later, but I could never bring myself to destroy the letters or the photographs.

After half a century, I searched and found my first love. Then in 1999 we were able to locate our son, who was born and placed for adoption after we were separated. The three of us have spent some special time together. Even though we acknowledged that our love was and still is true, we agreed not to upset my marriage.

My wife knows all about this, and accepts my strong need to financially help my "other girl" have a comfortable lifestyle. I love my wife. She is and always will come first in my life. Yet those photos and letters are precious to me.

Genealogically, they are vital family memorabilia, and without anyone knowing, I have placed them with five generations of saved items. They represent an important part of my life with my first love. I cannot find the courage to let them go. Have I done wrong? -- IN LOVE WITH TWO EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN

DEAR IN LOVE: Not from my perspective. This is the 21st century -- not the 1940s. Perhaps it's time to let your children know about their half-brother. After all, this happened before you even met your wife.

An alternative would be to put the keepsakes in a safe deposit box and give one of the keys to your lawyer, with instructions to mail them to your love child after your death. I'm sure your son would treasure having evidence of the love through which he was conceived.