DEAR ABBY: I am 13 and couldn’t be more mixed up. Mom abused us our entire lives. She lost custody of me and my four younger brothers and sisters last summer. I always thought I hated her for the beatings she gave us.

The truth is, I don’t hate her. I miss her so much I don’t know what to do. I can’t tell my dad or stepmom because I don’t think they would understand. Every night I cry myself to sleep because I miss Mom. I’m scared that something bad has happened to her because she hasn’t tried to call or see us even once. What should I do? Please help. – SCARED AND SAD IN THE APPALACHIANS

You’re no longer a little girl. It’s important that you express your concerns to your father. You need to talk about your mother, how she treated you, and why, and find out where she is. There is a reason why your father was given full custody of you and your siblings. When you’re older you will have a better understanding of what happened.

DEAR ABBY: My sister and I have a dilemma. Our beloved mother passed away three months ago, and both our brothers want Dad to erase her voice from the greeting on his answering machine. The message says, “We can’t come to the phone right now, so please leave a message and we’ll call you back.”

Abby, we love hearing our mother’s sweet voice when we call. However, our brothers feel it’s “time for a change.” Dad seems fine with leaving it as is. Please help settle this dispute. – TWO DAUGHTERS MISSING MOM IN ILLINOIS

Please accept my sympathy for your loss. Grief counseling could be helpful for all of you. Your brothers are probably not the only people who find such a greeting to be off-putting. I’m sure family friends are also disconcerted by it. Since it bothers your brothers, perhaps it’s time to transfer the message in your mother’s voice to tape – so you, your sister and your father can listen to it when you wish.

DEAR ABBY: I’m enclosing a wedding announcement my family and I received yesterday. My family and I are shocked and appalled. It reads:

“Dear Family: I am asking for your cooperation and understanding. My wedding will be very costly, and this has caused me to make some unpleasant decisions.

“I hope you will see this as a request for a donation and not a charge for you to attend my wedding. I cannot figure out any way other than to ask each guest to contribute to the cost. If anyone is insulted by my request, I am sincerely sorry.

“Your $330 contribution must be received on or before June 30. Only postal money orders will be accepted. Please purchase it only from a U.S. post office. Thank you for your contribution.”

My question is, how should this “invitation” be handled? We don’t have this kind of money. Should we tell the bride-to-be what bad manners this is? – APPALLED IN OHIO

No. Please allow me to do it for you. What you received is not an invitation. It is a solicitation. Not only is it tacky; it is unbelievably insulting. When a couple marries, all monetary contributions should be voluntary. To specify that the “gift” be paid via money order implies that there might be insufficient funds to cash the check.

If I received such an “invitation,” I would not send a money order. I would send my regrets. I recommend that you do the same. Readers, I challenge you to top this!

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To order “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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