DEAR ABBY: I have a gripe to air, and I hope you will consider printing it.
A few times a year, my adult son is allowed to visit me from his residence in a group home for the mentally disabled in another state. Despite his severe handicap, "John" is a well-behaved and loving son, of whom I am quite proud. Therein lies the problem.
When we are walking together in public, John will often grab my hand, as he did when he was a child, innocently unaware of the social taboos against such behavior.
Many times I have had to endure stares, snickers or outright insults from strangers who apparently interpret this hand-holding as homosexual bonding.
The emotional trauma of our separation due to divorce, distance and his institutionalization is enough pain for both of us. I don't want to forcibly remove my hand from my son's simply to avoid the mistaken notions of thoughtless people who have no idea what it means to suffer a cognitive disability.
Perhaps if there are any such judgmental souls among your legion of readers, they will think twice the next time they see two grown men holding hands in public. -- OHIO FATHER
DEAR FATHER: People who stare, snicker or insult strangers in public are hardly the kind of individuals who should be judging anyone else's behavior.
I hope they recognize themselves in your letter and, as you said, think twice before assuming anything and expressing any form of disapproval. People should never judge another until they have been down the same path.