DEAR ABBY: With the holiday season approaching, I'd like to share with you and your readers a story that was told to me by a lady in the waiting room of a hospital here in Atlanta when my wife was hospitalized. I hope you enjoy it. -- WILLIAM A. PARKER JR., ATLANTA
DEAR WILLIAM: Let me put it this way: Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. With a slight twist of fate, the comedy could have turned into a tragedy. Read on:
"In December 1966, a lady from northeast Georgia called her sister in Atlanta to ask if it would be safe to come to Atlanta to shop at a major shopping mall. Her sister assured her she would be entirely safe.
"The shopper came to the city, but 'just in case,' she brought her 6-inch .38-caliber revolver with her in her handbag. She arrived safely and shopped all day. Around dusk, she walked into the parking lot, carrying her bags and packages. As she approached her car, she noticed two men sitting in it. She carefully put her bags on the ground, pointed a finger and shouted, 'You men get out of my car!' Nothing happened.
"She again pointed her finger and shouted, 'You men get out of my car.' Nothing happened. She then opened her pocketbook, took out her .38-caliber revolver with the 6-inch barrel, pointed it at the men and shouted, 'You men, I've told you twice to get out of my car. Get out, and I mean RIGHT NOW!' This time the doors flew open and the two men ran like jackrabbits.
"The lady put her pistol in her purse, retrieved her packages, placed them in the back seat of the car, and got behind the wheel. She locked the doors and put her key in the ignition. It would not turn. Suddenly, she realized that she was not in her car.
"She looked around to see if anyone was watching, carefully opened the door and walked to her car, which was parked about four spaces away. Again, she loaded her packages, locked the door and began to leave the parking lot.
"As she was leaving, she noticed several security guards and honked and waved to get their attention. She called out to them, 'I need to tell you nice men about something that happened to me.'
"One of the guards replied, 'Lady, we don't have time to chat. There's a little old lady with a pistol out in the parking lot hijacking cars!'
"She rolled up her window and drove home. Once safely at home, she called her sister and reported what had happened. She ended by saying, '... and I don't want you to worry. I won't shop there ever again!'"
DEAR ABBY: I've been married for 56 years and have received many gifts from my children and grandchildren. My husband died recently, and I am downsizing from my large home to a much smaller house. I must sell or give away many of these gifts we received over the years.
My question: Can I give my children anything I want to? One of my children thinks I should return to each child whatever he or she has given me.
I would prefer to dole out these gifts to whomever I choose, regardless of who gave it to me. Your thoughts, please. -- TEXAS WIDOW
DEAR WIDOW: Remind your child that a gift, once given, belongs to the recipient to do with as she pleases. Then give the items to whomever you wish to have them.
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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