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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a father who's always mean to me. He finds reasons to yell at me -- for example, the trash isn't taken out or the dishes aren't washed. He isn't involved in my educational life at all. When my teachers request a conference with my parents, he almost never shows up. When I graduated from elementary school and middle school, he didn't come to either of the ceremonies.

I'll talk to my dad about these things sometimes, and he says he's sorry and the next day he'll buy me something to try and make it up to me. He can be really nice when he wants to be, but most of the time he's a mean person. He is always putting me down, calling me an idiot and saying I'm worthless and a good-for-nothing son. I really want to become friends with my father, but it seems he doesn't. What can I do? -- WANTS A FATHER IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR WANTS A FATHER: You may not be the perfect son, but you are not good-for-nothing, worthless or an idiot. What you have described is sad, because this may be a "parenting technique" your dad learned from his own father. I don't know whether he's an alcoholic, a workaholic or what other reasons there may be for his absence and his guilt. But "Father of the Year" he's not, and if you want a male you can look up to, you will have to find one elsewhere. Talk to your mother about this if you haven't, and ask her to guide you. You have my sympathy.

DEAR ABBY: My son and his girlfriend of 13 years, "Liza," broke up, and my son has moved out of the house they bought together. They still have a lot to settle, but so far, they remain on reasonably good terms.

The news of their split has left my wife and me feeling bad. We developed a bond with Liza over the years and we are unsure how to proceed from here. We feel she has become a part of our family, especially since she has no real family of her own.

We would like to express our sorrow for their breakup, wish her the best in the future and, perhaps, maintain friendly contact. We do not want to upset our son by doing this.

Please advise me on how we should proceed. What is the proper approach for parents and other family members in this situation? -- CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE IN OTTAWA

DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: You're asking the wrong person. The person you should discuss this with is your son. While it is understandable that you feel Liza is a member of the family, the truth is she isn't in the literal sense. The extent to which you keep her in your lives may depend upon the circumstances of the breakup. While the extended family may wish to maintain relationships with her on an individual basis, whether your son would be comfortable having her present during family holidays is yet to be determined.

DEAR ABBY: I am 17. My 15-year-old sister and I know each other's thoughts and feelings almost as well as our own. Unfortunately, we also know when the other's funny bone is "tickly" -- and it starts a giggling fit. When we start, we can't stop.

We get these fits at the most inappropriate times. We are at our wit's end. Can you help? -- GIGGLE GIRLS IN LANCASTER, PA.

DEAR GIGGLE GIRLS: Yes. When you know something is funny, but it is inappropriate to start giggling, the two of you should not make eye contact. That will solve your problem.

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