DEAR ABBY: When our neighbors with five small children moved in next door, my husband offered them our barbecue grill to use, because they were trying to cook on one that was too small.
Since that day, the wife has come over no less than twice a day to borrow something -- but she never returns the items. She'll ring the doorbell, waking up the baby and disturbing me when I'm finally getting a break.
Yesterday, this neighbor asked if she could borrow some diet soda because her husband didn't want to drink what they had at their house. (Yes, they have a car to go to the store themselves.)
I have given this woman everything from plastic zip-lock bags to milk for her two youngest who are still bottle-fed -- as well as lending out my dog carrier, which our dog needs.
She also comes over to use my phone for what she says is "only a minute" -- then calls her husband at work just to chat. Lately, I've been telling her I'm out of whatever she asks for, but she's always quick to ask for something else.
Last night I didn't answer the door when I saw her standing there. I feel like I'm literally hiding in my own house. How can I put an end to this? -- HIDING BEHIND THE BLINDS IN NAPLES, FLA.
DEAR HIDING: Your neighbor has taken advantage of your and your husband's kindness. Tell this freeloader the store is closed -- and you are busy. And to please not call when the baby is napping because it's disruptive. Period. If you don't stop her now, her behavior will escalate.
DEAR ABBY: Our only child, a son in his late 40s, has decided he is gay. He was married briefly for three years and has had three partners. I have seen very little of him, as he lives on one coast and we live on the other.
We haven't seen him for four years because he will not visit us without his partner. We do not approve of his lifestyle and feel he should visit his parents alone. I think he is being unreasonable. We both have health problems and don't need the stress.
Don't get me wrong, Abby. I love my son and it is his choice to live his life this way. But do I have to be subject to it? Am I wrong? Does anyone else have my problem? -- HEARTBROKEN MOTHER IN ORLANDO
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: You are wrong. People aren't gay because they choose to be; they are gay because they are born that way. Your son tried to please you by marrying. It didn't work -- he is only being himself now. For you to demand that he visit you without his partner is both insulting and unreasonable. If he were married, you would not insist he visit you without his spouse. His partner is his family, too.
Many other parents have handled this situation in a positive way by getting information from -- or joining -- PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). This organization has more than 20 years' experience building bridges of understanding between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people and their families. Contact it by writing: PFLAG, 1726 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20036, or by e-mail at info(at)pflag.org, or by visiting the Web site at www.pflag.org. You'll be glad you did.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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