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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Why in the world does "Sick of Scraps" care what kind of paper her friend uses to correspond with her? Does she share her mail and is somehow embarrassed? I don't get it. In this age of faxes, cell phones and e-mail, "Sick of Scraps" should be tickled pink she's receiving letters.

Perhaps her friend's finances have not kept pace with inflation.

Does "I love you" mean any less if it is written on the back of an old memo or newsletter? On a more pragmatic level, using scraps of paper helps the planet by recycling paper. The amount of usable paper we throw out every day borders on obscene. –- PAULINE H.G. GETZ, ATTORNEY, SAN DIEGO

DEAR PAULINE: It occurred to me that the friend might have been using "memo pads, odd pieces of paper or whatever appeared to be available" for economic reasons. That's why I suggested that "Sick of Scraps" send her friend a box of stationery. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Sick of Scraps" seems to be more interested in pretty paper than she is in her "cherished friendship." Personally, if my friend wrote letters to me on scraps, I'd be more concerned for her financial needs. After all, they're both in their 70s and are most likely retired. Has it even occurred to "Sick of Scraps" that her friend might not wish to burden her with such information?

Your response to send a box of stationery didn't even address that woman's rudeness to her friend. Your suggestion bothered me because there have been times when I couldn't afford even cheap stationery, but I still wanted to be in touch with my dear friends. True friends don't judge the book by its cover (or the letter by its paper). Didn't you notice how petty her complaint was?

I'm only 43, but I'm thankful for my cherished friends and whatever way they choose to stay in touch. -– JONI KELLY, NOLANVILLE, TEXAS

DEAR JONI: The woman wasn't rude to her friend. She addressed her concerns to me. And as to whether I noticed that her values might be skewed in the wrong direction, I advised her that a 36-year friendship should be more important to her than the kind of paper (stationery) that sustained it across the distance.

I agree, true friends don't judge a book by its cover -– or the letter by the paper on which it is written. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Sick of Scraps" reminded me of how the correspondence between my mother and her sister deteriorated as they both sank deep into dementia.

Relatives of the elderly would do well to read "The 36-Hour Day" (Johns Hopkins University Press). It's an excellent treatise on dementia. –- KIRBY A. WILLIAMS, MARTINEZ, CALIF.

DEAR KIRBY: Thank you for your succinct and thought-provoking note. It hadn't occurred to me that either of the women might be suffering from mental impairment. Now that you have pointed it out, I agree it's worth considering since the woman's behavior changed abruptly four years ago.

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