DEAR ABBY: Though they did not ask, I am writing this on behalf of all "steps" and "in-laws" in hopes of enlightening our society.
When I was a teen-ager, my father died of a massive heart attack. Four years later, my mother married a wonderful man whom I loved dearly. Eighteen years later, we buried him after he lost his struggle with cancer.
Over the past month, I have been amazed at the insensitivity of people. There seems to be a common misconception that because a mother, father or child is a "step," the significance of that relationship is diluted.
Let me assure you that neither blood ties nor time determines the depth and strength of a relationship. The case of Susan Smith comes to mind. Those were her flesh-and-blood children whose seat belts she strapped before pushing that car into the lake!
One of the coldest, albeit most innocent, shocks I got was when a co-worker asked me after I returned from the funeral of my second father, "Was he your real father or just your stepfather?" Just? That made him sound positively throwaway!
My mother received a staggering outpouring of love and caring. She lost a husband, and I lost a father -- not a stepfather. I hope this letter will cause people to think with their hearts and not their dictionaries.
I am signing my name, but if you use this, I respectfully request anonymity. Thank you. -- GRIEVING DAUGHTER
DEAR GRIEVING: Thank YOU for a heartfelt message. Please accept my condolences.