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Dear Abby 1/13

This friend in need finds some good friends indeed

DEAR ABBY: I have read your column for years; now it's my turn with a question. Two years ago, some friends of mine saw I was in a real bind, caught in a vicious circle I couldn't get out of on my own. They invited me to move into their spare room until I could meet some goals and was able to move on. I decided to accept their offer.
    The time I have spent with them has literally changed my life. I have grown tremendously in the last year and a half — emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have even improved physically. From day one, they made me a member of their family, and I have come to love them as such. They have been my supporters, my advisers, my friends, and I count myself lucky to have been part of their household.
    Now that I have met most of my goals, I am getting ready to move out, and I am not sure how to repay them. They have literally set my life in a new direction. Any successes I have from this point on will be success that they have had a hand in.
    How do I thank this couple and their family for all they have done for me in the last 18 months? -- GRATEFUL WOMAN IN THE MIDWEST
    DEAR GRATEFUL: I doubt that anything you could buy for these angels on Earth would mean as much to them as a handwritten letter from you expressing the feelings you have confided to me. I am sure it would be something they would treasure for the rest of their lives.
    Of course, it goes without saying that being able to move out and live a full, successful and happy life will also show them that their efforts were not wasted. I cannot imagine a better tribute to their generosity.

    DEAR ABBY: About a year ago, my brother, "Ronny," stopped speaking to our parents. He said they did something "unforgivable" to him during his childhood. I know Ronny wasn't neglected or physically or sexually abused. From what my parents have told me about e-mails they have received from him, he is angry about basic mistakes parents make.
    Recently he mentioned that he just wants them to "respect" him. I have seen Ronny become overly sensitive about any sort of teasing that comes his way, and I guess that he's referring to this. I have asked him not to tell me his reason, for fear of being too angry about why he made this decision. This mess has caused a lot of tension in our whole family.
    My brother is coming to visit me and my family in a few weeks, but won't be visiting our parents. How do I handle their questions and probing about his visit, and what do I say when they get angry about his not visiting them? -- RONNY'S SISTER IN IOWA
    DEAR SISTER: I think you should ask your brother about his reasons and withhold judgment. I'm glad that he wasn't beaten or sexually abused as a child. However, someone should have told your parents that "teasing" can be like acid, eating away at a person's self-worth.
    While it may seem to you that Ronny is overly sensitive, I find it interesting that you didn't mention what he was teased about that was so hurtful he's avoiding "the folks." Was the teasing two-way, or was it aimed only in one direction? And was it persistent?
    Do not allow your parents to put you in the middle. This isn't your squabble; you have nothing to do with it. When they ask how the visit went, tell them it was "nice" — if it was. Do not go into chapter and verse. And if they become angry that Ronny did not visit them, face it — the problem is theirs, and it's up to them to resolve it, not you.

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