DEAR ABBY: My father was born 50 years ago, and only learned the truth about his birth in the last few years.
The woman he always believed was his mother was, in fact, his grandmother. His older "sister" was really his mother. She was 16 when she became pregnant by a young soldier who denied responsibility.
His grandmother, a strong-willed woman, took his mother to another state and pretended she had given birth. She was deeply ashamed of her daughter, and went to great lengths to carry out the plan. She wrote letters home to relatives informing them of her "surprise" pregnancy -- even describing her terrible morning sickness.
Abby, my father has been estranged from both women since learning the truth. My great-grandmother is 88 years old. I pray that our family can be healed before it's too late. Dad is angry, betrayed and bitter. He refuses to discuss the matter, much less forgive. The saddest part is that some family members have told me they knew the truth all along, but kept silent.
His grandmother felt the charade was the only thing she could do under the circumstances. However, this kind of deception reverberates through several generations. -- SECRETS ARE DANGEROUS IN NEW YORK
DEAR SECRETS: I feel sorry for everyone involved in this fiasco. Your grandmother was trying to protect her daughter's reputation, because in 1950 being unmarried and a mother was considered a disgrace to the girl and her family. She was trying to protect your father, too, by bringing him up when her daughter couldn't, and from the knowledge that he was born out of wedlock.
He should have been told the truth more than 30 years ago. But family secrets sometimes have a life of their own, and she probably couldn't find the words by the time he was an adult.
That your father is bitter and hurt because he was lied to about his history is understandable. However, some sessions with his clergyman or a therapist might help him to let go of his anger and forgive the deception -- before it's too late.