DEAR ABBY: Many years ago, when I was a volunteer at a Veterans Hospital, I went into a room to visit a World War II veteran. His wife and grown children were arguing loudly and trying to get him involved. He looked at them for a while, and silently turned over. The visitors didn't notice me or the doctor who came in behind me; they just kept blaming each other about something. We both walked out and I noticed the doctor shaking his head in disbelief.
Not long ago when I was recovering from a five-way bypass and a stroke on the operating table, my roommate's wife and daughter came in to tell him about all the troubles they were having at home. The poor man had enough troubles of his own. I later mentioned it to a nurse. She told me that all the hospital patients have the same problem.
Hospitals should have a sign at the entrance that reads: "Leave your troubles at home while visiting patients." -- ERNEST A. SCHICHLER SR., COLUMBIA, S.C.
DEAR ERNEST: I agree. Subjecting patients who are sick enough to be hospitalized to additional stress is hardly therapeutic. Tranquility should be the order of the day.
And while I'm at it, visiting hours should be respected because patients need their rest.
DEAR ABBY: I'm so angry I'm seeing red! When my nephew recently married, relatives gave his future bride and him a shower. We live 1,100 miles away, so I assumed the invitation we received had been sent as a polite gesture. We can't afford to travel that distance for either the wedding or the shower.
My husband and I decided to send an expensive gift for the wedding instead of two smaller gifts for each occasion. We explained this to our sister-in-law. She was so offended that she dug out two unused gifts she had received, wrapped them, signed our names, and presented them to the bridal couple at the shower!
When I learned of this, I was livid. I felt like a fool being thanked for the gifts. Abby, don't you think I have the right to determine which gifts I give and to whom? Was that tacky? We're not kids -- my husband and I are both in our 40s. -- DUMBFOUNDED IN TEXAS
DEAR DUMBFOUNDED: Yes, it was tacky and I don't blame you for being peeved. Since you were unable to attend either the wedding or the shower, you were very generous to have sent a wedding gift. Your sister-in-law's gesture may have been well-meant, but it was out of line.
DEAR ABBY: A lot has been said about the health benefits from quitting smoking. I have an extra benefit I'd like to mention.
I was a smoker for more than 50 years. During the last 20 years, I smoked three packs a day.
When I finally decided to quit in 1997, I began putting aside the money I would have spent on cigarettes. In November of '98 I took my wife and two young grandchildren from Oregon to Disneyworld in Florida for eight days.
I'm still not smoking, still saving and plan to take my wife and oldest granddaughter to Hawaii in April of 2000.
Abby, my health is better now and I'm really enjoying retirement. Sign me ... HAPPY TRAVELER, TIGARD, ORE.
DEAR HAPPY TRAVELER: Congratulations -- and aloha!
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600