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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I speak for the people who are in wheelchairs permanently, having been in one myself for a short time following a head injury.

Recently, I went to a concert in the park. I noticed a man in a wheelchair struggling to get to the dancing area. As he approached people, he would reach out as far as he could with his better hand. He was rejected time after time -- or just plain ignored.

Finally, my heart just couldn't take it anymore, so I walked over to him, took his hand and started swinging it back and forth to the rhythm of the music. Then I "danced" quickly around his wheelchair as I held his hand.

Ordinarily, I am scared to death to perform in front of people, but I was as peaceful and self-assured as I could be.

The only thing I saw was the look of happiness in his face. When the song ended, he pulled me close enough to give me a sweet little kiss on the cheek. After that, others "danced" with him, and he had a wonderful time.

Abby, I ask everyone to treat people in wheelchairs as if they were standing up -- to recognize their courage and realize that they have the same feelings as you do. -- CELESTE RICE, LORANE, ORE.

DEAR CELESTE: Thank you for a letter that warmed my heart and will be appreciated by many.

DEAR ABBY: My problem may seem insignificant compared to some you receive, but I need to air my feelings, and I hope my in-laws see this:

"Harry" and I have been married for 20 years (no children). We aren't poor, but he still gives me a weekly allowance for groceries. I worked the first nine years of our marriage, but I finally quit because all I was allowed to do with the money was make car payments on "our" car, which Harry drove most of the time.

Over the years, my in-laws have given us cards with checks enclosed for Christmas and anniversaries. They just hand the envelope to Harry in front of me, he promptly pockets it, and I never see it again. Once, I noticed that the check was made out for $1,000 to both of us.

If my in-laws ever asked me what we did with the money, I'd tell them the truth, but they have never asked. A few times I've asked Harry, and he said, "I've got it." End of conversation.

Don't mention "divorce," which I have considered a few times, but Harry would kill me before he'd give me a divorce. And lately, there have been times when I wish he would. -- TRAPPED

DEAR TRAPPED: Marriage should be a partnership; yours is more like a master-and-slave relationship. Christmas and anniversary checks from the in-laws should be spent on something you can both enjoy, something for your home or a vacation trip. They should not go into your husband's pocket never to be seen again.

But there's more than material inequality ailing your marriage. Please see a marriage counselor. If Harry refuses to go -- go without him. And if you still would "rather be dead," ending your miserable marriage is preferable to ending your life.

WORTH NOTING: "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch." -- RETIRED JUSTICE THURGOOD MARSHALL, U.S. SUPREME COURT

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