DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter on Aug. 2 from the grandmother of a 5-year-old boy, "Andrew Jr.," whose father has refused to see him. And when the father remarried and had another son, the child was also given the name Andrew Jr. She said she didn't understand why the man was punishing the boy.
Abby, I suspect the father may have learned that he is not the child's biological father. Or, he believes that he is not. I found out that one of my children was fathered by someone else because of a blood test for medical reasons. My wife was quite promiscuous, and my mother-in-law didn't have a clue that her daughter could only guess at who might be the father of at least one of her children.
We are now divorced for other reasons, but I never let any of my children know that I was not their father. They have turned out to be delightful, wonderful human beings, and I am happy to be their "father." My ex-wife is now looking for happiness with soon-to-be husband No. 5. She just cannot be satisfied with one man at a time. -- SEES BOTH SIDES IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR SEES BOTH SIDES: The number of readers who wrote to say they have had the same experience you did, frankly, raised some eyebrows in my office -- including my own. I applaud you for doing the right and compassionate thing. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The same thing happened to me as a child when my parents divorced, but the person who refused to see me was my mother. She also did not call or send letters to me and my younger brother. She died 10 years later, after refusing to even tell us she was ill. (We found out after her funeral.)
Not only did my mom stay away, but her whole family did, too, including half-brothers I was raised with. Like the child in the letter from "Concerned Grandma," I, too, had a lot of questions growing up about why Mom didn't want us anymore. Sad to say, my dad and stepmom handled the situation badly.
I would urge the mother and grandmother not to bad-mouth "Andy's" father or tell the boy his father didn't want him or abandoned him. Instead, remind him how much he is loved, and simply answer that of course his father still loves him -- it's just that some fathers can't show it as well as others. Maybe someday that father will come around and realize the mistake he made in missing out on his firstborn's life. -- FORGOTTEN DAUGHTER IN MISSOURI
DEAR ABBY: I experienced the same thing. I handled it like this: I never said a bad word about his father, his new life or his family. I explained that we can never really understand what goes on in someone else's life, but the day would come when he might look for answers himself.
When I received one of the few -- very small -- support checks, rather than cash it I'd put it someplace where I knew my son would see it. In my state there is a logo on the check that identifies it as a support check. This allowed my son to think, and sometimes even say, "At least he sends money for me." Those checks were so few and far between that many of them were never cashed, as the 180 days expired before I received a new one to lay around. But it worked.
My son grew up without anger, and that was my goal. And now, at the age of 22, he is just beginning to know his dad. My ex has thanked me for what I did, but what I did was for my son -- for his spirit and sense of self-worth. -- LOVING MOTHER, BEAVER DAM, WIS.