Dear Ann: A close friend of mine is dying of cancer. I am unable to visit him, so I telephone him every day. What do I say? I do not tell him I love him or that he is in my daily prayers. He already knows that. We do not discuss his symptoms or the fact that his condition is worsening. I want to take his mind off those things, for a moment at least.
I tell him what is going on in my life, maybe a funny joke I just heard, and he laughs. I think laughter is good for him. Some friends say I am being "unrealistic" and playing games. What is your opinion, Ann? R.R. in Tampa, Fla.
Dear R.R.: Ignore the comments of your mean-spirited friends, and keep calling. Believe me, your dear friend spends enough time thinking about his worsening condition. He could use some laughter in his life.
I have made similar daily phone calls to three friends who were terminal, and they let me know the calls were greatly appreciated. The last such friend was one of the sweetest people I have ever known Ann Buchwald, who lived in Washington, D.C. I was in London when Ann passed away and could not attend the funeral.
Shortly after, her husband, Art, was in Chicago to speak at a convention at which I was present. Before his speech, Art handed me a suede jewelry pouch, which contained a beautiful necklace. He said, "Ann wanted you to have this."
I wear that gold and coral necklace often, and whenever I put it on, I say a little prayer for my dear friend Ann Buchwald.
Dear Ann: My youngest son is 12 years old. His classmates have toilet-papered our house and trees twice in the last week. While I found it annoying, I figured it was one of those boyhood pranks and they would soon stop.
I just learned that the parents of these children not only bought the toilet paper, but drove the kids to my place so they could do their handiwork. I am appalled that parents would encourage such delinquent behavior.
Should I telephone these people and tell them what I think? What should I do if it happens again? Not Amused in D.C.
Dear Not Amused: Those parents should be ashamed of themselves. If you are absolutely certain of the identity of the delinquent kids, call the parents and say sweetly, "I certainly hope your children are not involved in this activity, because if it happens again, I am calling the police to investigate." That should do it.
Dear Ann: I am a 14-year-old girl who gets good grades. I have always been trustworthy and responsible. The problem is my mother.
Mom is overly protective. She will not allow me to see a movie unless an adult comes along. My friends find this ridiculous and annoying. I cannot ride my bike outside our residential area, and never on a busy street. This means I cannot visit my friends who live beyond the traffic light on the corner. The worst thing is, Mom makes me bring my lunch to school in one of those lunch boxes with cartoon characters on it.
Ann, I am a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL, and Mom makes me feel like a 6-year-old. I've tried talking to her, but she says I should be glad she cares so much about me. How can I get her to back off and let me grow up? Annie in Seattle
Dear Annie: Your mom means well, but I agree, she is overly protective. Ask your favorite teacher or the mother of a good friend to intervene on your behalf. You deserve more freedom, and I hope you get it.
Gem of the Day: Dean Martin used to say, "I always wake up at the crack of ice."