DEAR ABBY: I am responding to "Been There in Iowa," the divorced mother of two who convinced her ex-husband -- even if he did nothing else -- to call the children once a week to tell them he loved them.
My parents divorced when I was 3. My sisters and I lived with our mother. For a few years we enjoyed regular visits with our dad, but then visits became less frequent. During my teens, I was lucky to see him for a few hours every six months or so, and there were no letters or phone calls between visits.
The infrequent visits I had with my father were very hard for me emotionally. I felt he was only making token appearances -- being a father when it suited him or when his conscience bothered him. Sometimes I cried when he brought me home, never knowing if it was the last time he'd ever want to see me.
I felt disappointed, angry, deeply hurt and unloved. At 16 I could no longer take the emotional roller-coaster ride and decided he should either be a real father and a regular part of my life or stay out of it completely.
For seven years I neither saw nor spoke to him, but in those years I did a lot of growing up. It wasn't until recently that I realized I didn't hate him anymore. I was finally able to let go of the hurt and resentment and allow myself to forgive him.
I wrote my father a long letter, explaining that there were things I needed to say to him, pouring out all my feelings about the parent he had been and how it had affected my life. I made sure he knew I didn't hate him -- I still loved him -- and he didn't have to write back if he didn't want to.
Abby, he wrote me back! He said he'd been needing to hear everything I told him. He accepted the blame for his failings as a parent and apologized for hurting me. He is not the same man he was before, and he wanted the chance for us to get to know each other again. He said he loved me! His letter lifted a 10-ton weight from my shoulders. We now write frequently. -- THANKFUL IN TEXAS
DEAR THANKFUL: Your letter proves the truth of several important life lessons:
1. People can change.
2. It's important to speak the truth because often people need to hear it.
3. The burden of hurt and resentment is usually more destructive to the vessel that houses it than to the person who caused it.