Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I have a dear friend I'll call "Anita." Recently, during one of our visits to her home in a neighboring state, her son, "Brandon," and our daughter, "Alicia" -- both single -- "discovered" each other. Our families have been friends for 16 years.

When Anita and I were told about the kids, we were surprised -- mainly because they pretty much grew up together. Brandon is three years younger than my daughter. For my part, it's OK. I'm happy for them.

Anita didn't say so, but I got the impression she doesn't think my Alicia is good enough for her son. She claimed she didn't want Brandon to hurt Alicia, since she's been hurt some in the past -- like all of us. What do you think? -- CONFUSED IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR CONFUSED: Please don't be so quick to judge your friend. She knows her son better than you do. Unless both parties are emotionally mature, a three-year age difference can be a problem -- particularly if one person wants to settle down and the other wants to sow some wild oats. Of course, there is risk involved in every new relationship, and nothing ventured, nothing gained. But if it's the real thing, only time will tell.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been happily married for 35 years and have three grown children, a son and two daughters. We have always gotten along very well, and the kids were always close to each other.

My son, "Joseph," is a Ph.D. psychologist, and so is his wife, "Rene." We are very proud of them both. But they have this "thing" about their mail being addressed to them as "Dr." even when it's sent to their house. This includes birthday cards, and my two daughters are having a tough time with it. They feel their brother is distancing himself from them. (He also lives two hours away from the rest of us.) Quite frankly, I agree.

We believe his wife is leading him. She says she "doesn't feel like a sister" to my two daughters. Please give me your thoughts on this. Our family is not the same. --CONCERNED DAD IN NEW YORK

DEAR CONCERNED DAD: I think your problem lies closer to home, namely the attitude of your daughters. Your son and his wife have earned the right to have their mail addressed as "Dr. and Dr." and that is how their mail should "properly" be addressed. This would be a small step in the right direction for your daughters, with the added benefit of possibly warming up your daughter-in-law.

DEAR ABBY: My 51-year-old brother, "Jerry," was diagnosed last spring with advanced cancer. He lives hundreds of miles away from the rest of the family and we see him only every few years. My two sisters and I know about his condition, and he keeps in touch with us via e-mail.

Jerry has asked us not to tell our parents, who are 74 and 85 and in good health. Jerry doesn't want them to worry. So far, we have kept his secret because we don't want to alienate him, but it's very difficult to keep up the charade with our parents. Any advice? -- SAD SISTER IN MAINE

DEAR SAD SISTER: Talk to your brother, and tell him how heavy the burden of secrecy has been on you and your sisters. Explain that your parents deserve the chance to adjust to what is happening, and that at their ages, as bitter as the news may be, the shock of "suddenly" losing him could be worse. After that, the decision of whether his parents should be informed should be his. You have my sympathy.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby