DEAR ABBY: For most of my life I searched for my biological father. My mother had many relationships throughout her life, and I was the result of a one-night stand. I have a half-brother who is the result of another failed relationship. My mother finally married a man who raised us as his own and gave us his last name. However, Mom wouldn't tell me or my brother who our real fathers were.
Over the years I questioned my mother about him, but she would give only sketchy details and sent me down many dead-end trails. After she became terminally ill, I continued asking her for the truth, but she wouldn't budge. My guess is she was ashamed of her past and couldn't bear to tell me, or was afraid my real dad would take me away from her.
Two years ago, I took an online DNA test and amazingly found my biological father. From the time I made contact, he and my new brothers have accepted me and my family and given us unconditional love. I like to say I hit the "family jackpot."
Over the last two years I have wanted to change my last name, but I'm afraid to make the leap. I have a half-brother on my mother's side with whom I share my stepfather's last name. Many times I wanted to ask for his permission/blessing, but I'm worried he will get angry and never speak to me again. I know he will think I am abandoning him if I do this. Am I selfish for wanting this name change, or should I seek to set the record straight? -- RECLAIMING MY NAME IN INDIANA
DEAR RECLAIMING: You certainly have a right to change your name to the one that reflects your identity. But since you asked, I think you should wait to "set the record straight." Your stepfather took you into his home and his heart and gave you his name, and to change it now would be a poor way to repay his love and kindness. It might lessen the blow if you discuss hyphenating your last name. After he is gone, you could shorten the name to your birth father's.Read more in: Family & Parenting
DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law has a key to my house. I didn't give it to her. We left a key under the mat one day so she could get in to pick up something because I wasn't going to be home when she arrived. I asked my husband to get the key back, but he is uncomfortable asking.
She and my father-in-law have been in our house twice more in our absence. We were out of town, and we were shocked to hear they had entered our home without asking. It was almost sneaky the way they did it, and when I talked to my husband about it, he was upset as well and took his anger out on me. It ruined our day traveling. We didn't speak the entire two-hour trip back home.
I asked my mother-in-law via text to please let us know when she was entering the house due to privacy and that I was not trying to hurt her feelings. She's now upset with me and says she doesn't know when she will visit us again. I am tired of being the second fiddle to her. Am I overreacting? It seems I can't win with this! -- KEYED UP IN ALABAMA
DEAR KEYED UP: This is not a matter of playing second fiddle or any other instrument. Your husband should ask his mother for the key back. By doing this now, it will establish your independence. If he can't find the courage to insist upon the privacy you both deserve, change the locks.Read more in: Family & Parenting
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.