Dear Abby: I am a 54-year-old divorced woman who raised three kids on my own for 15 years. I would now like to make a major change in my life and move to a small town in a Southern state. My kids are grown except for my youngest, who will graduate from high school this summer and probably attend college.

My parents, who don't even live in this town, are opposed to the idea. They say I am "abandoning my children," and my siblings are asking how I can move so far away from my elderly parents, which makes me feel guilty.

Am I wrong for wanting a new life of my own? My loved ones can always come to visit me. Do I owe it to my parents to stay here?

I can no longer afford to live where I am here in San Diego, but if I move to a less expensive community, I suppose I could afford a small home. —Restless

Dear Restless: Having raised your children to the point that they are independent, you are entitled to live wherever you wish. However, before making any hard-and-fast decisions, please answer some honest questions:

What will you do if your parents become too ill or frail to travel? Once your children marry and your grandchildren start arriving, how involved do you want to be in their lives?

If you will have enough money to travel for visits when you wish, then go with a clear conscience. If not, consider moving to a smaller, less-expensive community not so far away from the family.

P.S. A final question: If something should happen to you, would you want your family to be closer?

Dear Abby: I have had this friend, "Dina," for about five years. It took me a while to notice, but now I realize she calls me only when she needs something — a shoulder to cry on, a favor or, more recently, someone to brag to about her "good fortune."

Dina's "fiance" (I'll call him "Ethan") has finally divorced his wife to be with her. He has physically and emotionally abused Dina in the past, and continues to use drugs. I have loaned her money and helped her out in more ways than I can count.

Ethan recently got a big settlement, so Dina had $10,000 worth of plastic surgery done and took a trip to the Caribbean. But she has never once offered to repay me what she owes. She has also never been to my new house, not even for the housewarming. She says I live "too far," although it's only 20 minutes from her place.

Dina's wedding is scheduled soon. I don't want to attend because I think Ethan is an abuser — and besides, it's "too far." She keeps calling, and I just let the machine pick up. I don't want to invest any more in this friendship, but I don't know what to do. Advice, please. —Ms. L. in Seattle

Dear Ms. L.: Tell Dina that it's time to repay the money you loaned her. After that, I predict your problem will be solved.

Dear Readers: Along with the millions of Americans who are celebrating this Memorial Day, I would like to add my prayer of thanks to the men and women of our armed services who laid down their lives in service to our country. May they rest in peace.

Dear Abby: I have the most annoying laugh. It goes from a cackle to a loud screech. I have lost friends over this because people don't enjoy being seen in public with me. Is there anything I can do to solve this problem? —Kristen in Wayne, N.J.

Dear Kristen: It is possible to modulate one's laughter, as it is one's speaking voice. It takes practice and discipline, but it can be done.

However, there is much to be said for a genuine, spontaneous, hearty laugh. And those who would end a friendship because they don't want to be seen in public with you are shallow.


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. © Universal Press Syndicate