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by Abigail Van Buren

Five Year Olds Girls Should Not Be Walking Home Alone

DEAR ABBY: When my husband or I pick up our 7-year-old daughter at school -- seven blocks from our home -- we often see two 5-year-old girls who attend the same school. They walk the whole way home by themselves and pass our block every day. There are major intersections they must cross to get home. My daughter tells me that sometimes they don't look before stepping into the street. At one intersection, the light changes before you can reach the other sidewalk, and even I have to run before the traffic starts moving.

I am afraid for these children. Other parents have mentioned seeing them navigating the streets alone. To me that means there could be a predator watching, too.

On the days that my husband or I walk, we wouldn't mind inviting these little ones to walk with us. I want to give their guardians a note saying so, but the girls were probably told not to talk to strangers. I don't want a predator to see me talking to the children and realize there is no one protecting them.

Please tell me what I should do. -- AFRAID FOR THE CHILDREN

DEAR AFRAID: You have every reason to be concerned. It frightens me to hear about two 5-year-olds walking home without supervision. Talk to the school principal about this so he or she can contact the parents. If that doesn't solve the problem, report it to the police. It is child endangerment.

DEAR ABBY: Last February, my husband suffered an anoxic brain injury -- lack of oxygen to the brain. Needless to say, he is no longer the man he was.

Our friends have all disappeared. They tell me it's hard for them to see him like this. How do they think I feel?

Am I wrong to feel hurt? I don't understand why they can't even call. Talking has always been an outlet for me, but no one ever calls me anymore. No one knows how someone else feels until they've been there, but what happened to, "I'll be there for you," or "Call if you need me"? I wouldn't ask them for anything but conversation.

Is it normal for people to avoid friends when they are in trouble or pain? -- FRIENDLESS IN GEORGIA

DEAR FRIENDLESS: It's human, it's common -- but it's cowardly. You have my sympathy, but it's time you stopped waiting for calls that never come and do something on your own behalf. Rather than dwelling on how these supposed "friends" have let you down, your time would be better spent with a caregiver support group. You'll find you have much in common. Locate one by calling the National Family Caregivers Association, toll-free, at (800) 896-3650, or visiting the Web site at www.nfcacares.org. There is also an organization called Faith in Action that offers respite care to caregivers like yourself. The toll-free number is (877) 324-8411. Adult day care for your husband could give you some much-needed time to rest and rejuvenate. Please consider it.

DEAR ABBY: Once you have been married and then divorced, must you always check "divorced" when filling out forms? Or is there a time when you can go back to "single"? -- STEPHANIE IN GAINESVILLE, FLA.

DEAR STEPHANIE: I'm not sure what kinds of forms you're referring to. Frankly, I find the question presumptuous, and I don't see why either has to be marked -- unless it's for something like an insurance form or a background check.

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