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Coping Well Depends On Age

By Ann Landers Creators Syndicate

Dear Ann Landers: You recently discussed the sting felt by young children who have been abandoned by a parent. I would like to take the topic one step further and include ADULT children who experience this abandonment.

“Jack” and I had been married for 31 years when he decided he wanted to go on to bigger and better things. We were very young when we married and had four children. He said he felt trapped by responsibility and needed to “experience life.” I thought our marriage was perfect and was devastated.

Now, 12 years later, Jack is fulfilling his dream of sailing around the world. He married a girl the same age as our daughter, and they have three small children. They have been living and sailing on a 50-foot boat for the past four years. He seems happy, and I wish him well, but the sad part of all this is that my children, who are wonderful adults, have no father. After all their years of camping, hiking and water skiing together, he is gone. We have a 15-year-old grandson who last saw his grandfather when he was 6 years old. The two younger grandchildren have yet to see him. He wasn’t there when our youngest daughter graduated from college, and he didn’t bother to acknowledge the invitation to her wedding.

My new husband is wonderful with my children, and they all love him. My grandchildren are his, and vice versa. I know from experience that a woman can find another husband and go on with her life, but we each get one real father, and when that father walks out, it is truly abandonment, no matter how old you are, and the empty spot in your heart stays empty forever. - M.H. in Mobile, Ala.

Dear Mobile: While some people will agree with you, many will not. I’ve heard from a good number of readers who don’t look kindly on the father who abandoned them and their mother and are totally devoted to the stepdad, whom they adore.

A great deal depends on the age of the child when the stepdad moves into the picture. Younger children adjust much more easily than teenagers, and of course, the intensity of bitterness on the part of the ex-wife can be a major factor as well.

When divorced people attempt to punish each other by turning the children against their ex-spouses, the results can be horrendous because it is the children who suffer. They end up confused, insecure and unhappy.

Dear Ann Landers: You recently printed a letter from a nurse who said she was tired of being asked for free medical advice by friends and acquaintances. She said they never appreciated what she did for them nor did they reciprocate in any way. I can sympathize with her because I’m in the same boat.

I am a professional musician and enjoy my work as a pianist immensely. I also lead sing-alongs, provide background music or sing and play as a soloist. The problem is that when I receive an invitation to an event with family or friends, I am always dragged to the piano and expected to play. I am trapped there for the remainder of the evening, taking requests from the guests - all for free.

I have tried refusing to play or agreeing to play only one or two numbers. But no matter how nicely I state my position, it always sounds rude and ungracious. How can I gracefully get out of playing? - Louisville Lulu

Dear Lulu: Michael Feinstein, who is a friend of mine and one of the best pianists around, told me that when he is asked to play at parties where he is a guest (which happens quite often), he simply says, “Tonight is my night off, and I am really enjoying myself. Do you mind?” That puts an end to it.

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