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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Seven years ago, my sister called and offered me her piano. She told me none of her children wanted it, she was moving, and there was no room for it in her new place. Since I love to play the piano and am quite good at it, I said yes immediately.

I have moved twice since I have had the piano. It is very heavy, and the second time I moved, I had to pay a piano mover to move it. In October of '95, my mother passed away. Then in December of '96, my other sister passed away, and I've been sick for quite a while myself.

Last February, the sister who gave me the piano called out of the blue and told me she wanted her piano back because her granddaughter was taking piano lessons and needed it so she could practice. I hadn't heard from her for quite a while, and it upset me that she had called not to inquire about my health, but to ask me to return something she had given me seven years ago.

She insists that she told me seven years ago that she was giving me the piano with the stipulation that if one of her children or grandchildren should decide some time in the future that they wanted to play, I would return it. My feeling is that it was inconsiderate of her to ask for the piano back, when she knew I was sick and depressed, regardless of any stipulation under which she might have given it to me. I explained to her that due to chronic fatigue and depression, I haven't been able to keep my house in order and that she could have someone come for the piano after I am well enough to straighten up my place.

I am writing to you because I would like to know if you think my sister was inconsiderate in making her request, or if I am just being overly sensitive about it. -- STRESSED OUT, HURT AND CONFUSED, WHITEHALL, PA.

DEAR STRESSED OUT: If you and your sister had not spoken in some time, it is possible that she was unaware that her request was coming at a time when you were sick and depressed. Give her the benefit of the doubt and return the piano.

Although chronic fatigue syndrome is an elusive illness and difficult to diagnose, help for it is available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates a chronic fatigue syndrome hotline with recorded updates on diagnosis, causes, treatment and support groups. The number is 1-404-332-4555. You might benefit by giving it a call. (For those with computers, CDC has a home page; the address for information on chronic fatigue syndrome is:

Also, the National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Association provides scientifically accurate information to patients in writing, on videotape and by telephone. Call 1-816-313-2000, or write to the association at P.O. Box 18426, Kansas City, Mo. 64133. Please enclose a long, business-sized, self-addressed, stamped (32 cents) envelope.

As depressing and debilitating as CFS can be, adding to it a feeling of isolation is even worse. If you haven't already done so, start networking today. I wish you the best of luck.

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Lucky Lady" -- to keep a small flashlight on the nightstand to use in finding her way to the bathroom when in strange surroundings -- is fine, IF she tells her hosts about it.

Otherwise, they might think there's an intruder in their house, and shoot without bothering to ask, "Who goes there?" -- MRS. WILLIAM H. SYLL, NEW ORLEANS

DEAR MRS. SYLL: That's good advice. Better to be safe than sorry.

DEAR ABBY: When I read the letters from women complaining about the lack of service they receive at lumberyards and hardware stores because they were female, I had to laugh.

The opposite is true for my husband and me. The secret lies with reverse sex discrimination. I put on makeup and wear a tight T-shirt and never lack for attention. My husband makes me come along with him, just to lure the sales clerks so he can get help. -- JANIS IN CAPISTRANO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR JANIS: Your letter proves that flies are attracted to honeys in tight T-shirts.

CONFIDENTIAL TO ROSIE: Happy Birthday to the most wonderful mother-in-law a person could wish for!

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600