DEAR ABBY: I am 80, and "Doreen" is 72. When we started dating seven years ago, I "simply wanted to be her friend." Now the tables have turned, and she just wants to be MY friend.

Doreen has a male friend in Florida with whom she communicates through letters and phone calls. Although she tells me she loves me, she also says that if this "friend" comes back and asks her out, she wants to be free to date him.

I told her that most 72-year-olds would be happy to have one man to date, but if she plans on dating someone else, I should be free to do the same. Her last remark was for me to "be gentle with her." We are affectionate, loving friends, and I care about her a great deal.

Your observations, please. -- EDDIE IN MAINE

DEAR EDDIE: Your statement that if Doreen plans to date someone else, you should be free to do the same seems logical to me. Continue to have an affectionate, loving friendship with her -- and by all means "be gentle" -- but keep your options open and date others in the knowledge that if her snowbird flies home, she'll be billing and cooing with him, and you'll be flying solo.

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DEAR ABBY: I have a big problem -- my father-in-law, "Hal." He has lived with us more than eight years and has never contributed anything toward his keep. I asked him once to pay some rent, but he refused. This not only caused a rift between my wife and me, but her two siblings -- who are well off -- said Hal was "living on the poverty line," so we should keep him for nothing.

I wouldn't mind so much, but my wife has to clean up after him, do his laundry and take him to his medical appointments. More than that, having Hal underfoot all the time has completely destroyed our privacy.

Hal spends most of his pension buying presents for his other children who never even come to see him. All we get from him are complaints.

What do you suggest? -- RESENTFUL IN IDAHO

DEAR RESENTFUL: Enough is enough. You and your wife are long overdue for a meeting with her siblings to discuss this problem. They should have started chipping in to pay for their father's care eight years ago and also seen to it that you have some respite. Unless and until this is brought out into the open, nothing will change.

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DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Audrey," was molested by her step-grandfather when she was a little girl. She told her mother about it, but because of her age she wasn't taken seriously.

Audrey and I are now talking about starting a family. Abby, I am uncomfortable about bringing children into this family unless everyone understands the reason I will not allow this man to touch our children. The problem is, the information will be devastating to Audrey's grandmother. A child's innocence is worth whatever hard feelings I might create, but how do we handle this without destroying a family? -- TAKING CARE OF MY OWN IN HUNTSVILLE, ALA.

DEAR TAKING CARE: Was your wife the only child in the family her step-grandfather had access to? Will the baby you're planning be the first in the family -- or has this man had unsupervised contact with others? Keep in mind that if he would molest Audrey, he may also have done it to others -- neighbors, etc.

Not only should the family be informed about what happened by you and Audrey now that she is "old enough to be believed," but also ask if anyone else may have been victimized because other children may have been afraid to speak up.

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