DEAR ABBY: I was recently called to come in to work at the grocery story where I am employed because my department manager, "Meg," didn't show up. After I finished the shift, I stopped by Meg's house to check on her. She didn't answer the door. Eventually a neighbor and I were able to enter her home and found her very ill. We called 911, and Meg was taken to the hospital. She's now in the ICU.
Meg is pretty much a loner, and her son lives in another state. In addition to my concern for her health, I was appalled by what I saw when we got inside her home. Abby, the place was filled with trash piled so deep we couldn't tell if there was any furniture. There was only a narrow pathway to her bedroom. A couple of space heaters were on, so I assume the furnace wasn't working. I also learned the police had to shut the water off because of a leak inside the house. It appears Meg was not having things repaired because she is hesitant to let anyone into her place.
It depresses me to know she lives in such deplorable conditions. I haven't been able to talk to anyone else at work about this, even though they, too, are concerned about Meg's illness. I can't imagine her returning to her home in the condition it's in. I'm sure she realizes that I've been in there, and I would imagine she's terribly embarrassed.
What should I say to her when she comes back to work, and what can I do to help her? -- TROUBLED IN COLORADO
DEAR TROUBLED: The living conditions you have described are not only a danger to Meg's health, but also a serious fire hazard. All it would take is for any of the items piled on her floor to come in contact with one of the space heaters, and her place could become an inferno.
One way to help the woman would be to notify the health department and the fire department about the conditions you observed. Also, many hospitals have a social worker on staff, and another way to help Meg would be to quietly inform that person about the circumstances under which Meg was admitted to the hospital.
When she finally returns to work, all you should say is that you're glad she's back. Make no reference to what you saw, and I'm sure she won't either.
DEAR ABBY: My wife of 30 years is suffering from a brain tumor and the effects of treatment. Her illness has been ongoing for about eight years, but has become debilitating during the last three.
We have spent most important holidays with -- and traveled with -- some close friends who were also neighbors. Recently, the other two couples made a trip and didn't invite us or discuss the trip with us. I resent the fact that we were not at least consulted. While I understand that we might be a "problem" to travel with, I'm hurt that the trip was planned without any discussion with us and was kept a secret until departure time. Am I being petty? -- HURT IN LILBURN, GA.
DEAR HURT: I don't think so. Your feelings are understandable, particularly because you're coping with so much stress right now.
Your friends may have acted the way they did because they felt guilty about being able to travel while your wife is not. They may also have been afraid that discussing a trip that you and your wife could not manage would be more hurtful than just going. Obviously, they were wrong, but please try to forgive them.
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 $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers 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