DEAR ABBY: I haven't seen my dad in about 10 years. He was abusive when I was growing up, and it was a relief when Mom finally divorced him. At one point, my sister caught him peeking at her through the bathroom window.
I finally gave up on him after I became an adult, living overseas in a remote area for seven years. My father never answered a single letter I wrote, or even sent a Christmas card. When I came to town on annual leave he never had much time for me, and once he stood me up at a restaurant. When I moved back to the United States, I decided to stop initiating contact. He's never been to visit me.
He called about six months ago and asked me to visit him the next time I'm in his town. As it happens, I'll be there in a month or two.
Father feels a little guilty about his past behavior, but mostly he's in denial and expects his children to respect him. I feel uncomfortable seeing him, but he's growing older and I don't want to feel guilty when he dies.
What do you think is the right thing to do? -- FED UP IN ALASKA
DEAR FED UP: Love and respect aren't automatic; they have to be earned and nurtured. Certainly, your father has done little over the years to deserve your respect. I hate to see you set up for more heartbreak. However, if you don't go that extra mile and give him a telephone call when you arrive, you may always regret it. You'll be able to tell from the response you get at that time whether it's worth your time and effort to re-establish contact.
DEAR ABBY: It is so sad to be a stepmother of a teen-age girl whom I just can't love. She's been living with us for four years. She's 16 and a very difficult child. (I'll call her Sharon.)
Sharon doesn't like to shower. She gets so mad when I insist that she gets in the shower, gets wet, gets out and without toweling off, re-dresses in the dirty clothes she's been wearing for days. I have tried everything to get her to practice proper hygiene.
Abby, Sharon is the best kid around when her father is at home, but he works long hours, and while he's away she is the kid from hell.
Her mother refuses to take her back. What should I do? -- SAD STEPMOM
DEAR STEPMOM: Happy children don't behave this way. Sharon needs psychiatric help. Fill her father in on everything, and insist that Sharon see a counselor as soon as possible.
DEAR ABBY: This is for "Shorty From Wisconsin," who needs a booster seat in the restaurant. For years, I carried a pillow to the Los Angeles Music Center when attending concerts. It's a round form from the fabric store. I covered it with gold brocade and included a 3-inch-wide carrying strap on the side. Because it seemed awkward to carry both a pillow and a purse, I included a small zipper pocket under the strap, just large enough for my driver's license, health cards, lipstick and handkerchief. (Yes, I'm one of those "little old ladies" who still carry a white handkerchief!)
Years ago, I put a similar zipper pocket in the corner of my daughter's beach towel. It was just large enough to hold a bottle of sunscreen, a small comb and bus money. -- EVIE DE POISTER, SANTA MONICA, CALIF.
DEAR EVIE: Your idea of including a concealed zipper pocket was clever. I'm passing it along for readers who are fortunate enough to know how to sew -- or to know someone who does.
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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