DEAR ABBY: My father left my mother after 32 years of marriage. To say Mom was devastated would be putting it mildly. She tried to keep things cordial for the sake of her four kids, but Dad spurned her efforts.
My three brothers and I are now married with children of our own. Only recently have I been able to express how ashamed I am of myself and my siblings for the despicable way we have treated our mother for the past 17 years.
Dad was always arrogant, but he became even worse when he came into money. In our lives, Dad became No. 1. The reason? You guessed it -- the money. We put our mother down every chance we got, and our spouses chimed right in. We visited her only once or twice a year and never repaid the money she lent us. She knew she wasn't wanted or respected. Dad is clueless to the fact that we hang around only because of what we can get (and have gotten) from him. This is still true of my brothers, but I no longer want any part of this charade.
Mom is gone now. No, she hasn't passed away. She quietly moved out of our lives and I don't know where she is. I don't blame her for leaving. The abuse she took from us shouldn't happen to a dog. When I look back, I remember a mother who held a full-time job, kept a marvelous home, was a great cook and had a wonderful laugh and sensitivity. She didn't smoke, drink or cheat on Dad. Was she perfect? Of course not; none of us is.
All she wanted after the divorce was to be loved by her kids and spend time with her grandkids. Now the grandkids are growing up without knowing this wonderful woman.
Mom, if you see this letter, I love you dearly. I hope you can someday forgive me for all the years of hateful remarks and unkind deeds. The pain you must have suffered is something I'll have to live with the rest of my life. You are a class act, and I'm going to live the rest of my life trying to emulate your values and quiet dignity. -- MISSING MY MOM IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.
DEAR MISSING: If you're truly sorry, it's time to tell your mother personally and ask her forgiveness. Do whatever it takes to locate her, including hiring a private detective if necessary. It may be expensive, but use some of the money you got from Dear Old Dad.
DEAR ABBY: I am an 81-year-old grandmother who blindly trusted that my annual Pap smear exam would provide early detection for any type of uterine cancer.
It took a diagnosis of uterine cancer that resulted in a subsequent hysterectomy for me to discover that this test is not enough. Although the Pap test should be part of a regular checkup, it only checks for cervical cancer. Except when hormone therapy is being taken, any bleeding, spotting or abnormal discharge following menopause is not normal and should be reported at once to your doctor. -- GEORGIA GRANDMOTHER
DEAR GRANDMOTHER: I'm pleased that your cancer was caught in time. However, whether a woman is pre- or post-menopausal -- and whether or not she is on hormone therapy -- she should immediately alert her doctor to any abnormal bleeding, spotting or discharge. These symptoms are not just warning signs of cancer. They could also indicate a polyp that needs removal, or a sexually transmitted disease.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)