Dear Abby:

My beloved husband of 32 years, "Loren," passed away last year after a long illness. I took an extensive leave from work to be at his side.

Several weeks ago, after I returned from work, my doorbell rang. On my doorstep was a tall, well-mannered, 19-year-old young woman asking for a "few minutes of my time." (My children are ages 29 and 27.)

This young woman claims she is my husband's daughter, the product of an affair between him and her mother, whom he met at a local sporting event. Loren was very active in sports. He was a former physical education teacher and coach. She produced a photo of herself with Loren and her mother, taken on her fifth birthday -- and another with Loren and her mother, who was visibly pregnant.

I felt as though I'd been kicked in the stomach. She told me Loren had stayed in touch, paid child support in cash, and bought her gifts and clothing. His name, however, is not on her birth certificate. She has asked me for some "keepsakes" from Loren, and said he had promised to help her financially with college tuition.

Please tell me what to do. I haven't told anyone about this, not even my children. I'm too ashamed and shocked.

Heartsick in N.Y.

The first thing you should do is call your lawyer. For her to have hit you with this news the way she did was brutal. I wouldn't blame you if you made no further communication with her except through your lawyer, and let him (or her) be your guide.

Dear Abby:

I am in a live-in relationship with a man I'll call Howard. Last year, I began quietly seeing "Adam." Howard found out about the affair a few months later, but didn't want us to break up.

I decided to stay with Howard even though I am in love with Adam, because I can't support myself on my own. After that, Adam decided it would be best if we stopped seeing each other. I know he's right, but I'd really like to talk to him. Right now, I'm agonizing over whether to call him.

When I ask my family or friends for advice, they say I should move on and get over Adam, because I'm only 21 and have my whole life ahead of me. The truth is, I can't let go so easily. It has been about four months since we last spoke. Should I call Adam, and if I do, what should I say?

Clueless in Vegas

Listen to your family and friends; they have your best interests at heart. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you take a breather before going another round with anyone. Do not call Adam until you have left Howard and become self-supporting. That way, he will know you are not after him for a meal ticket, too.

Dear Abby:

Do you think it is appropriate for a brother (age 21) and a sister (age 17) to share the same bed? The siblings each have a large, comfortable bed of their own, but frequently wind up sharing. This is very troubling to a dear friend of mine, who is their stepparent.

It seems the biological parent is hesitant to discourage the behavior, and only reluctantly admits it might be inappropriate.

Just Asking in Houston

I am mystified at the attitude of the biological parent, who appears to be ignoring a possibly incestuous relationship. Of course it's not appropriate. The "children" should have been sleeping apart since well before puberty.

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, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate