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DEAR ABBY: Our father died nine months after his diagnosis with cancer. Within six months of his funeral, our stepmother of 20-plus years had begun a new relationship. She sold her and Dad's home and belongings and moved across the country, leaving behind her children, stepchildren and grandchildren.

Although she promised to keep in touch with everyone, she hasn't. She has made no effort to reach out to her stepfamily over the last year and a half, not even her grandchildren. We are perplexed, as she claimed our father was the love of her life and she dearly loved her grandchildren.

A few of us tried contacting her during the first six months after she left, but she usually responded only to texts, and then with one-word answers. We realize she has moved on, but how could she cut all ties with those she supposedly cared for? What are we missing? What is it that we don't understand about being 60-something and widowed?

We feel abandoned and betrayed. We supported her in her decisions and her remarriage (which is the last time we had any contact with her). Please advise, Abby. -- BAFFLED OUT WEST

DEAR BAFFLED: Since you haven't had any meaningful contact with her since her remarriage, I suspect that her new husband has something to do with the silence. He may be controlling or discourages contact because he is threatened by the idea that she had a full life previously. It may also be that she prefers to devote her time and efforts to him and his relatives rather than dwell in the past.

I wish I had more information about her, but even without it, my advice is for you all to move on. It's impossible to maintain a relationship with someone who doesn't want one.


STD Patient Hesitates to Begin Dating Again

DEAR ABBY: I am a very open person, but one thing I am not open about is the STD I have been living with for the last few years. My ex didn't know he had it, and he gave it to me. Now free of him, I'm ready to date again, but I'm afraid of the judgment I may receive from potential partners.

I have heard all kinds of stigmatizing, dehumanizing and cruel comments about STDs, and I wonder to myself if people were better educated about this, maybe they wouldn't sound so ignorant. Unfortunately, I don't have the emotional strength to deal with rejection right now. So what I'm trying to ask is, how do I go about dating with an STI/STD? -- MOVING FORWARD IN MICHIGAN

DEAR MOVING FORWARD: According to the Centers for Disease Control nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year in this country, so please don't think you are alone. Knowing other individuals are going through what you are may help you to feel less isolated and stigmatized.

An excellent resource for you would be the American Sexual Health Association, which provides all sorts of reliable information for people with STIs/STDs. The website is ashastd.org, and it offers an online support community that may be helpful for you. There are also commercial dating sites and apps that cater to people with STIs and STDs. I encourage you to go online and find out which one may be the best fit for you.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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