DEAR ABBY: I have read your column for years; now it’s my turn with a question. Two years ago, some friends of mine saw I was in a real bind, caught in a vicious circle I couldn’t get out of on my own. They invited me to move into their spare room until I could meet some goals and was able to move on. I decided to accept their offer.

The time I have spent with them has literally changed my life. I have grown tremendously in the last year-and-a-half – emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have even improved physically. From Day One, they made me a member of their family, and I have come to love them as such. They have been my supporters, my advisers, my friends, and I count myself lucky to have been part of their household.

Now that I have met most of my goals, I am getting ready to move out, and I am not sure how to repay them. They have literally set my life in a new direction. Any successes I have from this point on will be success that they have had a hand in.

How do I thank this couple and their family for all they have done for me in the last 18 months? – GRATEFUL WOMAN IN THE MIDWEST

I doubt that anything you could buy for these angels on Earth would mean as much to them as a handwritten letter from you expressing the feelings you have confided to me. I am sure it would be something they would treasure for the rest of their lives.

Of course, it goes without saying that being able to move out and live a full, successful and happy life will also show them that their efforts were not wasted. I cannot imagine a better tribute to their generosity.

DEAR ABBY: About a year ago, my brother, “Ronny,” stopped speaking to our parents. He said they did something “unforgivable” to him during his childhood. I know Ronny wasn’t neglected or physically or sexually abused. From what my parents have told me about e-mails they have received from him, he is angry about basic mistakes parents make.

Recently he mentioned that he just wants them to “respect” him. I have seen Ronny become overly sensitive about any sort of teasing that comes his way, and I guess that he’s referring to this. I have asked him not to tell me his reason, for fear of being too angry about why he made this decision. This mess has caused a lot of tension in our whole family.

My brother is coming to visit me and my family in a few weeks, but won’t be visiting our parents. How do I handle their questions and probing about his visit, and what do I say when they get angry about his not visiting them? – RONNY’S SISTER IN IOWA

I think you should ask your brother about his reasons and withhold judgment. I’m glad that he wasn’t beaten or sexually abused as a child. However, someone should have told your parents that “teasing” can be like acid, eating away at a person’s self-worth.

While it may seem to you that Ronny is overly sensitive, I find it interesting that you didn’t mention what he was teased about that was so hurtful he’s avoiding “the folks.” Was the teasing two-way, or was it aimed only in one direction? And was it persistent?

Do not allow your parents to put you in the middle. This isn’t your squabble; you have nothing to do with it. When they ask how the visit went, tell them it was “nice” – if it was. Do not go into chapter and verse. And if they become angry that Ronny did not visit them, face it – the problem is theirs, and it’s up to them to resolve it, not you.

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.

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