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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 39 and never had a good relationship with my mother. I have known all my life that I am her least favorite of my siblings. Until recently, I accepted it.

The last time I visited Mom and Dad, I brought my children. Mother was so rude and mean to them that my 5-year-old refused to go into her house. We ended up staying at my grandmother's. My 5-year-old asked me why his grandma doesn't love him like she does his cousin. I wasn't sure how to answer.

When we returned home I wrote Mother a letter telling her exactly how I feel, and why. I said she could treat me as she pleased, but not to take it out on my children. I told her if she ever found it in her heart to treat us with the love and respect we deserve, she knows how to reach me.

A few months later, my father had open heart surgery. Mother never called to let me know. It really hurt. I have called and left several messages on their answering machine without a return call. Should I give up and accept the fact that my parents gave me life, but do not want me in their lives? Or should I keep trying? It has been eight months since we last spoke. We live 1,500 miles apart, and I know long-distance relationships are difficult, but I am their daughter. -- DISTRAUGHT IN FLORIDA

DEAR DISTRAUGHT: The physical distance between you and your mother is not the problem. The "distance" between you was created long ago, and unless your mother is willing to cooperate, I see no reason to continue courting rejection.

Talk to your siblings and ask them to keep you informed about what's going on with your parents. If you expect nothing, you can't be hurt. You are a parent now, and it is your duty to protect and nurture your children. Please do not feel guilty. Perhaps through neighbors and friends you can "adopt" some loving grandparent substitutes who are closer to home. It might be a healthier solution for all concerned.

DEAR ABBY: Our precious mother passed away in 1983 and left me her mink stole. I didn't think I'd ever wear it, so I gave it to my older sister. This year for Christmas, my sister gave me the delightful gift of a teddy bear made from Mom's stole!

It arrived in a large box filled with packing peanuts. At the bottom of the box was a very worn penny. The date on it was 1997, the same year our brother passed away after a brief illness.

A few months before his death, he and his high school sweetheart had married after 40 years of marriage to other mates. They were like teenagers, so in love and so happy. Needless to say, his death was devastating. My sister swears she didn't put the penny in the box.

I can usually find a logical explanation for strange phenomena, but this really touched me. My sister and I believe the penny symbolizes a link between Mom and our brother, who are now with Dad -- and together they sent us this "article of faith." I hope you'll print this, Abby. So many people need reassurance to help them through. I did, and now my faith has been restored. -- LINDA L. JOHNSON, MIDLOTHIAN, VA.

DEAR LINDA: I'm not sure which I find more impressive -- your finding the penny or your sister having found such a creative way to recycle the mink!

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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