Dear Abby: Your column has been a fixture in my life. Thank you for the smiles and the tears.
My dilemma: I received yet another invitation to someone's home for a "product party." In the past year, I have been considered a prospective buyer of cookware, candles, makeup, toys and vitamins. While I have at times used all these products, the invitations to sales parties that come from friends and sometimes friends of friends, irritate me.
When I phone to decline, the hostess invariably says, "Oh, you don't have to buy anything." Of course that's not exactly entirely true because it's a sales party, and "guests" are pressured in various ways to buy the product. People often buy things they don't need or want because they fear they'd be disloyal to the hostess if they didn't.
When I was growing up, my father said, "You don't invite friends to your house to sell them things." Maybe Dad was on to something.
Abby, how should unwanted invitations be handled? – Irked in Indiana
Dear Irked: Continue to decline the invitations. Tell the hostess you have "a conflict" and cannot change your plans. (You don't have to give any details.)
P.S. To ease your conscience, your "conflict" can be your plan to watch your favorite "I Love Lucy" rerun on TV.
Dear Abby: I'm wondering what I should do when my biological father dies. He and my mother divorced before I was born. I've had little contact with him, but my older sister and brother lived with him growing up and are close to him.
My mother died 20 years ago, and afterward I tried to get to know him, but he didn't want to know me. He never paid child support. Both he and my mother remarried. I was fortunate to have a loving stepfather, and I was very close to him until his death.
When the time comes, I am considering not going to my birth father's funeral. I have not told my sister how I feel because she thinks he is the greatest. I think he is a dirt ball.
What do you advise, under these circumstances? – Confused in Sioux City
Dear Confused: Funerals are for the living. Go to his funeral and give your siblings the emotional support they will need. I understand why you feel the way you do, but in this situation, it would be an act of kindness to keep your true feelings to yourself.
Dear Abby: Several years ago, when I read one of your letters about pennies from heaven, I laughed about it to myself. My sister-in-law had died a few months earlier and I said, "OK, Sharyn, if you're there, send me a penny from heaven."
Abby, the next day when I arrived at work, there on my keyboard was a perfectly placed penny. And for weeks afterward I kept finding more pennies. Finally I had to say, "OK, Sharyn, I get it." And the pennies stopped. – A Believer Now in Somers, Conn.
Dear Believer Now: I'm glad your faith is restored. If you saved them, have them made into charms for a bracelet. Every time you wear it you'll feel close to the sister-in-law who's smiling down on 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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.