DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I will be attending a milestone birthday party for a friend of his. The fiancee of the birthday guy stated on the invitation, "There will be a surprise during the evening." It has been suggested that a stripper "may" be the surprise.

Abby, I realize this might be OK for some people and it's just for fun, but I'd be uncomfortable if this happens. My boyfriend knows my feelings, but I don't know if we would risk being ridiculed if we left the party. What should I do if I find myself in this situation? -- HATE TO BE A PARTY-POOPER

DEAR "PARTY-POOPER": Contact the birthday guy's fiancee and ask if what you heard is true. If it is, spare yourself the embarrassment and have your boyfriend attend the party without you.

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DEAR ABBY: When someone has a serious illness or major surgery, everyone thinks to bring food, which is lovely. But I have a better idea.

When my friend, who has a young family, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I offered to do her laundry. Her recovery was slow, and the chemo and radiation therapies endless. Three years later, we're nearing the end of a short and brave life, and I still do their laundry every week. It has been a help to her, and I have grown closer to her and her family. When she's gone, I will never again do a load of wash without thinking of her.

Perhaps your readers can help another family this way. -- THE LAUNDRY FAIRY, ROCHESTER, MINN.

DEAR LAUNDRY FAIRY: The support you have given to that family extends far beyond doing laundry. Your presence over the long haul has, I'm sure, meant much more. Read on for a view from the perspective of a caregiver:

DEAR ABBY: My wife has dementia. Our children don't live close by, so I'm her only caregiver. One afternoon a week I hire someone to stay with her so I can grocery shop, do banking and run necessary errands. Neighbors and friends over the years have offered the standard, "If I can do anything to help, let me know," but I'm not the type to call and ask, although it would be wonderful to have more hours to myself to do things in a leisurely manner rather than like running a marathon.

I know people are busy, but it would be great if some of those who offered help would call occasionally, tell me they have an afternoon or evening free (or even an hour or two) and give me a little breathing room.

I don't begrudge one moment of the time I have spent caring for my wife. She has, for 50 years, been a marvelous wife, a wonderful mother and the center of our family. Whatever I do for her can never repay the comfort, strength and joy she has brought into my life. But I cried (privately) on Christmas Day after the family had finished our gift exchange, because I had no time to go and buy her a gift.

Please advise your readers that if the offer of help they extend is real, to please check their schedules, find some time they are willing to give, call that friend, neighbor or relative and offer to sit with their loved one. That thoughtful gesture will be appreciated beyond what they could possibly ever imagine. -- A FRIEND OF YOURS

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