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by Abigail Van Buren

Friend's Mysterious Lover Is Just an Ordinary Fake

DEAR ABBY: My dear friend "Shelby" has been involved with a man for three years. "Mr. Secret Agent" is always on the go and can visit her only occasionally because of all of his international business travels. She told me he is from New Zealand and plans to return there when he retires in a few years.

Something about him just didn't feel right to me, so I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that Shelby's "successful businessman" was born right here in the U.S.A. He has no passport, is using an assumed name, works as a janitor, has filed bankruptcy twice and actually lives in a trailer.

Shelby is overjoyed when he comes to visit her, but I am getting tired of hearing his lies. I know she'll be hurt, but don't you think she deserves to know the truth? I'm concerned he may extort money from her. What should I do? -- 2 GOOD 2 BE TRUE IN WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR 2 GOOD 2 BE TRUE: The first thing to do is confess to your friend that you did some snooping and learned some troubling information about her gentleman friend. Then offer to share it with her so she can decide for herself if continuing a relationship with him is something she wants to do. She may or may not be interested -- and she may or may not thank you for wising her up. Be prepared for her to be upset -- but it's a risk you should take.

DEAR ABBY: I have a suggestion for people who are stuck for gift ideas. Several years ago, I asked my mom for a very special Christmas gift. I asked her to write down her life story -- things she had done as a child, the experience of hitchhiking from New Mexico to Tennessee during the Great Depression, and all the other experiences of her life. She did, and I printed it for her. That year she gave each child, grandchild and great-grandchild a copy. It was the best Christmas present ever and one that's still cherished by us all.

Both my parents are gone now, but we have Mom's wonderful stories to remember. Without her book, those memories would be lost forever. I encourage everyone to record their family history and memories for your loved ones to read. You'll never regret it, and it will be enjoyed for generations to come. -- ANDREW IN JOHNSON CITY, TENN.

DEAR ANDREW: That's a terrific suggestion. And if the parent or grandparent isn't comfortable with writing, the same goal can be accomplished by setting up a video camera and interviewing the family member by asking questions about his or her youth.

DEAR ABBY: I left my abusive husband two years ago. My parents and my brother chose him over me. My father and brother kicked me out of their house when I tried to explain, while my mother stood there and said nothing.

My father is now dying and I don't know what I should do. I feel like talking to him would be "giving in." My family made their choice two years ago. Abby, I am torn. How do I forgive my father when I don't think he deserves it? -- THE ONE LEFT BEHIND IN OREGON

DEAR ONE LEFT BEHIND: Frankly, you don't. If you had said your father had asked for forgiveness, my answer might be different. But unless your father asks to see you, keep your distance. That is, unless you want to risk yet another dose of rejection.

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 $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)