DEAR ABBY: As a platoon commander stationed in the Far East, I see firsthand the effects of separation on a relationship. None of my young Marines are permitted to bring wives or family with them on a standard one-year tour.
It would seem that the wife would understand this time apart as an unfortunate reality of the job. However, a week does not pass that a Marine doesn't receive a "Dear John" letter or phone call. I have nothing but contempt for these women. If they could only be here to see the anguish these men endure. These wives and girl-friends must show the same courage their husbands and boyfriends do every day, and tough it out.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned loyalty and commitment? What's a man to do? - SEMPER FI, JAPAN
DEAR SEMPER: Unfortunately you see only the anguish the men endure; be assured there are a great number of wives and girl-friends "toughing it out" and waiting faithfully until their men come home. And by the way, Semp, there are female Marines "tough-ing it out," too.
DEAR ABBY: As a child, I did as I was told, followed all the rules and was a model student. I went a bit astray as a teenager. I gave myself to my boyfriend in every way. I turned my back on my family - especially on my mother, who raised me alone since my father had died many years before.
After seven years of mostly heartache with that boyfriend, I jumped into a relationship with a man who turned out to be both mentally and physically abusive. I was scared and embarrassed, and didn't want anyone to know the terror I was living in. When things got so bad that my life was in danger, I literally escaped from that terrible man. Guess where I went?
I went back to my mother. We did a lot of talking and I did a lot of apologizing. Together, we worked at rebuilding the bridges I had burned. During the next four years, we developed a wonderful relationship, and my mother became my best friend.
When she retired (after 31/2 of those four years), I didn't have enough money to give her a big gift, so I gave her an invitation to have lunch with me every Tuesday. (By then I was working full time and living on my own.) This gave us guaranteed time together on a regular basis. As it turned out, the "gift" I thought I was giving my mother, I gave to myself. My mother died suddenly six months after she retired. The memories I have from our lunches together are treasures to me.
I live in peace now - at peace with myself for having "righted" things with my mother, and at peace with my caring husband and two beautiful children. - DAUGHTER, HAMPTON, MASS.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Though you learned it rather late in the life of your mother, you finally learned that the best gift a person can give is a part of themselves: time alone and one's undivided attention.
This one's for everybody, from teens to seniors! To purchase Abby's new booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It," send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)