DEAR ABBY: My father passed away a year ago, after being married to "Valerie" for 14 years. After his death, she got his life insurance. She paid for his funeral and the burial. She also bought a new house and a horse within two months of losing our father. Four months later, she was dating another man.
My sister and I didn't ask for anything except a few articles of Dad's clothing. Having spent all the insurance money, Valerie is now asking me and my sister to give her money for our father's headstone. We feel his life insurance money should have been used for this. My question is, are we wrong for being angry with her? Isn't she at least morally obligated to purchase his headstone? -- LOST GRIEVING DAUGHTER
DEAR DAUGHTER: Your stepmother should be ashamed of herself for foisting off her moral responsibility to her husband of 14 years. And no, you're not wrong to be angry about it.
You and your sister must now decide if you can live with the thought of your father having an unmarked grave. Ask the people who manage the cemetery if they might allow you to have a special planting -- a bush, perhaps -- to be used as a marker in lieu of a headstone.
DEAR ABBY: Last night I got a debt collection call for my brother, "Stan." He and his wife, "Susie," are ready to file for bankruptcy and have been dodging creditors left and right. This is the first time I have heard from Stan's creditors, but creditors have called me about other family members, too. My relatives expect me to lie to the callers to protect them.
Abby, I pay my bills and pride myself on living an honest and open life. I feel bad for Stan and Susie, but is it right for them to expect me to deal with their creditors when they won't? -- FED UP IN DELAWARE
DEAR FED UP: Of course not. However, whoever made that call may not have been in compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which applies to those who collect debts owed to creditors for personal, family and household debts. (These can include car loans, mortgages and money owed for medical bills.)
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector may not contact the debtor's friends, relatives, employer or others, except to find out where the person who owes the money lives or works. If the calls continue, contact the Federal Trade Commission by calling (toll-free) 1-877-382-4357 or visit its website, www.ftc.gov.
DEAR ABBY: Over the years I have become friends with a client of mine, "Doug." I live in Wisconsin; he lives in Florida. We are both happily married and share about family and work. We use instant messaging for work-related issues and to chitchat. We have typed "I love you" to each other at times -- but only if we're being sarcastic, joking around or saying thanks for some help.
My husband doesn't think you can say "I love you" to a friend without having feelings or wanting more. I have never regarded Doug as anything but a friend, and he feels the same. Can I say "I love you" to a friend without it meaning something more? -- SPREADING THE LOVE
DEAR SPREADING: In my opinion you can, and many people do. There is a difference between saying "I love you" and "I am IN love with you," and I'm surprised that your husband doesn't realize it. Could he be feeling insecure?
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.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)