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by Abigail Van Buren

Worry for Childhood Friend Overshadows Happy Reunion

DEAR ABBY: I recently ran into "Grace," who was a dear friend back in elementary school. Back then my parents helped her mother flee and divorce her abusive husband. At age 12 we lost touch because Grace moved to another school and joined a "bad crowd."

Eighteen years later I was happy to see her again, and gave her my phone number. I have the feeling something is a bit "off" about Grace now. She has called me repeatedly and in her messages she sounds nervous and stumbles over her words. When I called her back, she told me she was in a serious car accident nine years ago and hasn't held a job since. The entire conversation was strange, and my gut is telling me Grace has a drug problem.

She has asked me to lunch to "catch up." I'm a stay-at-home mom and not comfortable meeting her in person, especially with my kids. I feel guilty for not wanting to see someone I was so close to when I was young, and for assuming she has a drug problem.

Am I wrong in making this assumption? Should I stop returning her calls and ignore her, or should I see her to make a determination? -- ALL GROWN UP IN VEGAS

DEAR ALL GROWN UP: You are wrong to prejudge the woman. While it's possible Grace has a drug problem, it is also possible that the car accident left her with an injury that has affected her speech. See her without your children and make a determination.

If she is impaired because of injury, would that make a difference in how you feel about her? Your lives have gone in different directions. She appears to be needy. With your responsibilities as a parent, how much time and effort would you be able to devote to her? Only you can answer these questions. But to take the coward's way out and ignore her would be cruel.