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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I thought you might enjoy a story that restores my faith in today's youth. When you read about all the children in gangs who rob, kill, and destroy property as well as their lives, I'm happy you won't read about my children.

I have five. They are 11 to 14 -- four girls (one set of twins) and a boy. I have kept them involved in all kinds of activities -- choir, band, sports, chores at home. They attend church with my father every Sunday. I have always hoped this could keep them out of trouble and on the right path. Their grades are good and they have aspirations of attending universities. That will be tough for a single parent like me to afford, but we'll manage. We always do.

Last spring, my 75-year-old father had two femoral bypass surgeries. One became severely infected, and he was hospitalized for a week not too long after the kids got out of school for the summer. When Dad was released from the hospital, the doctors wanted to put him in a nursing home because of the care he would require. His leg had to be flushed every four hours and his IV changed every eight hours. It meant around-the-clock nursing.

I work 10 to 14 hours a day, as does my roommate (a nurse). But I just couldn't put Dad in a home, and my kids wouldn't hear of it either. Here's what they did:

My 14-year-old, Elizabeth, packed up and moved into Dad's house. The nursing service and my roommate taught her how to take care of him. Kit, Kate and Ashley rode their bikes over there every day to wash, cook, clean, shop or whatever else was necessary. My 11-year-old son, Michael, would go over and mow the lawn, wash the car, etc. All of the younger children took turns watching TV or visiting with Dad so their big sister could get some much-needed sleep.

Their entire summer was devoted to taking care of the only man in their life. They skipped going to the movies, swimming with their friends at the city pool, visiting the mall, attending slumber parties and birthday parties, and everything else kids do in the summer. I was so proud of my children.

I'm happy to tell you that my father attended the twins' football game yesterday, beaming with pride for all five of his grandchildren.

I know this is a long letter, and I certainly don't expect you to print it. I just wanted to share it with you, to let you know that there are still some good kids out there. -- JANE RIGGS, PHOENIX

DEAR JANE: Thank you for your heartwarming letter. Your children are to be commended for their maturity and generosity, as well as their ability to shoulder responsibility -- traits they obviously learned from you.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing to thank you for publishing the letter from John A. Hardaway from Leavenworth, Kan. He wrote about the signs of cardiovascular disease. I want to thank him also.

For years, I had a burning sensation in my throat when I walked up inclines. I dismissed it because it went away after I reached the top and rested. (Ann Arbor has a lot of inclines and I do a lot of walking.)

After I read Mr. Hardaway's letter, I immediately called my doctor for an appointment. He gave me a stress test and the catheterization that proved I had three blocked arteries!

I am having surgery in 10 days. That letter was a lifesaver. -- MARION ANHERT, ANN ARBOR, MICH.

DEAR MARION: I'm sure that John Hardaway will be as heartened as I was to learn that his letter has saved yet another life.

Good luck with your surgery, Marion. I wish you many more healthy, happy years.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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