DEAR ABBY: My sister, “Shannon,” and I had a major falling out years ago and I haven’t spoken to her or her family since – except briefly, when we had to make arrangements for our father’s funeral three years ago. Shannon is 17 years older than me, married with two grown children. I’m perfectly OK with this arrangement. In fact, I prefer it, and I’m sure they do, too.

The problem is, I recently moved to the same county they live in and have run into several old acquaintances who have asked, “Aren’t you Shannon’s sister?” or, “How are your nieces doing? I heard one recently had a baby.”

Abby, I no longer consider myself to be Shannon’s sister. I have no idea how my nieces are or if one of them had a baby. How should I respond to these well-meaning people? If I tell them I no longer have contact with them, it will lead to questions I’d rather not answer. How do I politely deal with this without opening up my personal life for discussion? – SHANNON’S FORMER SISTER

When asked if you’re Shannon’s sister, say yes. If you’re asked anything beyond that, say you are not close and if they have questions about the baby they should ask the niece who had it. You do not have to air any “dirty laundry.” If you are asked other questions that make you uncomfortable, it is perfectly acceptable to smile, say you would rather not discuss it and change the subject.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married 33 years. All my life I have been vehemently opposed to having a gun in our house. Our three boys didn’t even have toy guns.

I just found out that my husband recently bought a handgun and hid it from me! His reason? “I wanted one.” Needless to say, I am furious. Your thoughts, please. – UNDER THE GUN IN MIAMI

A few come to mind. Before buying the gun, your husband should have had enough respect for your feelings to discuss it with you so some ground rules could be established. It would be interesting to know why, after all these years, he feels so vulnerable that he thinks he needs a gun in the house.

Also, if you haven’t already done so, both you and your husband should take a gun safety course as a precaution against an accident. Check with the police department to see where they are offered so you will know how to safely store and handle the weapon.

It goes without saying that your husband should never point the gun at anyone unless he actually intends to use it – a frightening thought in itself. If your home should be burglarized and the gun stolen, the chances are great that it will be used for criminal activity. If your husband can live with that, then so be it.

DEAR ABBY: At school last year there was this guy that I really liked. He was just a friend then, but now I realize that I really like him!

We ride the school bus together, so while we were on the bus I asked him for his phone number. He said, “I don’t think so. MORE time for you to bug me?” Now what do I do? – DOWN-HEARTED IN TROUTMAN, N.C.

DEAR DOWN-HEARTED: Recognize that the object of your affection may not be ready for a girlfriend, or may be interested in someone else. When someone tells you “more time for you to bug me,” it’s time to take three giant steps back and direct your attention elsewhere. This may not be easy to do, but it will save you hours of heartache. Trust me.

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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