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DEAR ABBY: I am writing to comment about the letter signed "Brokenhearted Mother," who didn't want Grandma, who lives 1,000 miles away, to know that her favorite grandson (age 19) was in jail.

Abby, your advice was the best ever. "Tell the truth, and tell it now," you said. "If you don't, it will be found out." I know. It happened to me.

My story is similar, only my parents live just around the corner. "Joey," our youngest (age 16) got mixed up with the wrong crowd and had to spend seven months in a detention center. I, too, made up excuses for his always being "away" when Grandma phoned. ("Joey is in the shower," or "Joey is in the darkroom developing.") I kept this up for four months. Finally my mother said, "I know where Joey is. He has been writing to us!" Needless to say, I felt like a fool.

When Joey came home, I helped him unpack, and I found a large collection of letters -- several from some of our neighbors! This surprised me. Joey said he wrote to almost everybody he knew, hoping they'd write back because getting mail was the only thing he had to look forward to -- besides getting out.

I've been reading your column for years, and this is the first time I've seen this problem mentioned. "Brokenhearted Mother" is not alone. -- BROKENHEARTED IN TORONTO

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