Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: About 13 years ago, my parents moved from the town in which my sister, brother and I live to a small town about four hours away. Each of us "kids" has made many visits to our parents for holidays, vacations and "just because." Each year I send birthday and Christmas cards and presents. We do get gifts in return, but usually several days after the occasion. I also call or write them about once a month.

Abby, my husband and I have our own business, which is seven days a week, 365 days a year. (I won't say what it is for fear of disclosing my identity.)

Our parents have never spent one holiday with any of us at our homes. They are retired. They travel quite often, but never visit us. They call about once or twice a year. This year, I asked them several times to come spend the holidays with us, as we are understaffed and have to work on most holidays. They adamantly refused. We are always welcome there, but they will not spend a holiday at anyone's house. They never phone us on holidays; we have to call them.

My father is not in terrific health, so I feel I must keep in contact, but I'm getting tired of being the one to initiate anything.

I told my parents the last time I called that they should start coming here or calling us once in a while -- but the last holiday passed and there was no phone call from them. Nothing. I have thought about not having any contact -- but I don't want to do that. I feel I've done everything possible. Please don't say "just go visit." It's not that easy. -- FRUSTRATED IN MEDFORD, ORE.

DEAR FRUSTRATED: If your parents adamantly refuse to change their behavior, there is nothing that you or the other "kids" can do to force them. Your parents are older and obviously set in their ways. If anything happened to either of them, and you hadn't seen them on the preceding holiday because you were "punishing" them, you would never forgive yourself.

If the demands of your business make it impossible for you to travel, that's understandable, but please don't cut off your nose to spite your face. You could regret it for a long, long time.

DEAR ABBY: I am a married woman in my mid-20s. I have a "best friend" I'll call "Muriel" whom I spend time with every day. My problem is, I feel that I have to be with her all the time. I sometimes feel like I'm in love with her.

I get jealous whenever Muriel's boyfriend comes over, to the point where I actually get upset and start arguments. I'm not attracted to her sexually; I just want her friendship all to myself.

I have told Muriel all of this. She told me I'd always come first with her as far as friends go.

Abby, homosexuality runs through my family, and I don't want to be one. I know my feelings for Muriel are outrageous, and believe me, I'd rather be with my husband, whom I also love very much. What do you advise? -- CONFUSED IN TEXAS

DEAR CONFUSED: Feeling possessive about a friendship does not necessarily mean that you are homosexual. But since the issue of your sexuality is making you uncomfortable, you should seek professional counseling so you can sort out your mixed feelings. I wish you the best of luck.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600