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by Abigail Van Buren

Phone Call From a Friend Frees Housebound Patient

DEAR ABBY: Please remind your readers that if and when an accident or disease transforms an active, involved person into a housebound, sedentary victim of ill fate, that person desperately needs the warmth and caring of friends and neighbors. Even the smallest kind deed can turn moments of sorrow into meaningful moments of joy.

On behalf of the many tens of thousands of individuals in our country who are involuntarily housebound, I would like to plead with those friends and neighbors: COMMUNICATE! By phone, through a brief note, a drop-in visit -- if only for a few minutes.

My beloved wife has been housebound for a little over two years. Because of her illness, she requires oxygen 24 hours a day. For her, a walk to the back yard is an adventure. When she's able to take one, we always take along the portable phone -- in case someone calls. It would be a small tragedy to miss a call.

When that phone rings, and a familiar voice says, "Hi!" her conscious struggle for breath seems to almost miraculously disappear.

I hope I have made my point. Be a friend to a friend or relative in need. Abby, please do not use my name or location, but do share this message with your readers. -- CONCERNED HUSBAND

DEAR CONCERNED HUSBAND: Your message is well worth passing along.

When someone is stricken with a serious illness, it's common for friends and family to experience feelings of guilt or to feel at a loss for words. Unable to cope with the discomfort, they react by distancing themselves at a time when their support is needed most.

In situations like this, act with the same generosity and compassion you would wish from others were the situation reversed. Rather than dwell on the illness, keep uppermost in mind that the sufferer is still your friend -- with the same interests, sense of humor and values. Focusing on that should make communication easier.

The attention is almost always welcome. Coping with chronic illness is difficult enough without having to endure isolation, too. Reach out -- you'll be glad you did.

DEAR ABBY: This letter is to "Beth's grandparents" (the ones who stopped coming to her sports games because she wasn't a star player).

I began playing soccer and basketball when I was 8. I hardly knew the rules and was very clumsy. Even though I wasn't great, I loved to play. It was a real treat for me to see my grandparents at the games. I always wanted to do my very best when they were there, but even if I had blown the winning point, I always could walk away knowing that they loved me. To them, it didn't matter if we lost. They were proud to come and watch, and I was proud to play for them.

Now I am about to start my second season of varsity soccer and have just finished a summer season of varsity basketball (I am going to be a sophomore). If I had given up because I wasn't "good" back as an 8-year-old, my love for the game would be gone and I would not have the joy of playing. No one is at their full potential at that age.

Please tell those grandparents to lighten up and encourage their grandchild to do her best without the pressure to win. They should be proud that she's out there working hard in sports that have not always been available to us girls. Good luck, Beth. Never give up your dreams. -- BLESSED WITH GRANDPARENTS WHO ARE A TREASURE, PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR BLESSED: Your message comes through loud and clear. I wish you continued success.

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