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Prisoner regretting past has trouble seeing future

Dear Abby: I'm a 50-year-old man who is serving time for robbery in West Virginia. Every day I wake up acting as if I am in control and don't have a care in the world. The truth is, I'm scared, lonely and feel totally helpless. All my life I have lived on the dark side of the street, taking for granted the values in life and the love so many people tried to give me.

Two failed marriages and several relationships with good women are over because of my determination to follow an unhealthy dream, not to mention all the friends I have lost as well.

Now as I look around me, there's no one there. No one to love and no one to love me. I never knew until now that chasing that dream would cost me everyone I ever loved.

I know I have made bad choices in life. I deserve the time for the crime I committed. But am I also sentenced to a world of loneliness? Can I ever be loved again and be happy after all the wrong I have done? Is there someone out there who would be willing to give me a chance? Is it too late to start over?

Abby, you have so many answers for so many people, I am just hoping you have an answer for me. – Serving Time

Dear Serving Time: It is never too late to start over. With penitence comes redemption. If you are willing to journey down a different path, the relationships you form along the way will be rewarding, long-lasting and mutual. Because of your criminal record you may have to work harder to gain trust, but I promise you that if you're willing to work at it, it can be done.

Dear Abby: My ex-husband, the father of our two children, was retired from the Air Force. He passed away 18 years ago. He had a full military funeral, with draped flag and all. His wife at the time was presented with the flag, which was proper. They had no children.

When she passes on, would it be proper for her family to give the flag to his biological children? After all, they were with him – as was I – throughout his entire 22-year military career. When my daughter mentioned it to his wife, she got angry. – C. in Texas

Dear C.: Your former husband's wife was entitled to whatever property was left after his demise. The flag is hers to bestow – or not. I don't know how your daughter's request was phrased, but the woman may have been offended by the way the question was asked. I can't think of any other reason she would become angry.

Dear Abby: I am writing regarding a letter you printed Jan. 26 from "Wants to Be Polite." I appreciate the person's sentiments because I, too, want to use good manners and a "You're welcome" or "Have a nice day" is a pleasing reply to hear.

What I do NOT like is a "No problem" reply to a "Thank you." It does not seem like a sincere response to me. In fact, it sounds like I was expected to be a problem and just happened not to be one. Any thoughts on this? – Arkansas Lady

Dear Arkansas Lady: You may not like hearing it, but you had better get used to it. While "You're welcome" may be more gracious, saying "No problem" reflects a generational shift in the vernacular. And while it may seem jarring, it is intended to be a polite response, so accept it graciously.

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.

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