Dear Abby:

My brother, sister and I grew up abused and neglected by our parents. There was never any affection or love in our home.

Now that we are grown, we have all established our own families and have little to do with our parents. Because we never discussed our home lives with anyone but ourselves, to outsiders our parents appear to be wonderful people. In the eyes of friends and other relatives, we are now "shirking our duty" because we have "abandoned" our parents.

I live far enough away that I don't have to deal with this problem, but my siblings face frequent criticism. What should be the appropriate response to those who continually ask why we don't visit our parents?

Safely Away in Duluth, Ga.

Your brother and sister have my sympathy. Unless they want to give a blow-by-blow description of what their lives were like growing up, which I'd advise against, their best response would be, "This subject is painful for me and very personal. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention it again." And then change the subject.

Dear Abby:

My mother and her fifth husband, "Lester," have been planning their funeral arrangements, discussing burial vs. cremation, etc. Mom wants to be cremated. At first Lester said that was what he wanted, too. Then he changed his mind.

Lester was previously married for 42 years to a wonderful woman, "Agnes." He nursed her through her long last illness. Now he says he wants to be buried next to her.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with this. As far as I'm concerned, when people die they are gone. But Mom is making a huge deal out of it. She says that Lester will probably die first, and she doesn't think she should have to visit him if he's lying next to Agnes.

I feel that Mom is ruining the present over an uncertain future. Do you think she's justified? Or is she making yet another relationship mistake?

Daughter of Relationship Dunce in California

If Lester and Agnes had children during their 42-year marriage, it's possible that the children would prefer their parents rest near each other. It's also within the realm of possibility that your mother could predecease Lester.

If your mother is smart, she'll refrain from turning her husband's remains into 206 bones of contention and concentrate on making this marriage as happy and stress-free as she can -- for both their sakes. When it's Lester's time to go, he should be free to rest in peace wherever he wishes.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate