Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My husband's darling mother died of cancer last summer. During the last month of her illness she was confined to bed, so we hired a nurse, "Lois," to cover the night shift.

The day after the funeral, my husband's father started calling Lois. Dad swore they were "just friends," but continued pursuing her despite our strong disapproval. Two months later, they were dating. Last Thanksgiving, our first holiday without Mom, he cancelled plans to be with us and the grandkids to spend it with "friends" -- guess who? On Christmas it was the same story.

This has hit my husband hard. Dad and Mom were married for 50 years. We have always had a close family, particularly at holiday time. Are we wrong to feel that Dad and Lois are disrespecting Mom's memory and to feel hurt and angry? -- GRIEVING IN MINNESOTA

DEAR GRIEVING: Please accept my sympathy for your family's loss. While it may appear your father-in-law jumped quickly into a relationship, it could be he grieved during the time his wife was ill and has concerns that his own time may be limited, so he wants to enjoy life while he can.

As to missing the holidays, being there with his wife of 50 years conspicuously missing may have been more than he could face. So please, try to be understanding because I'm sure your mother-in-law's death has been painful for all of you.

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DEAR ABBY: After having a stroke, my mother spent the last few years of her life in a wonderful nursing facility. She was an accomplished gardener and enjoyed sharing her bounty. Instead of sending her a fresh flower bouquet for Mother's Day, I'd have some potted tomato plants delivered to her nursing home. On her death bed last year, she reminded us to water her tomato plants. Sadly, those plants outlived her.

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to her memory than to encourage your readers to provide living vegetable plants for their senior relatives. Most nurseries or florists will accommodate your request and, perhaps, could be persuaded to donate a plant or two to a local senior care center.

The joy of nurturing a living plant will continue through the summer. -- CAROLE IN SAN CLEMENTE

DEAR CAROLE: What a sweet idea. Your mother appears to have been a generous and caring woman, and your letter shows the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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DEAR ABBY: When I was in high school, I was very popular and part of a large social group. That was three years ago. Since graduation, I have been dealing with an anxiety disorder. It has reached the point where I can no longer work, go to school or have much of a social life. I am currently seeking treatment.

Whenever I'm in touch with someone I was close to in high school, I am always asked where I'm working now or what school I'm attending. I feel embarrassed because of my disorder and often I don't respond because I don't know what to say. Any ideas? -- SPEECHLESS IN ILLINOIS

DEAR SPEECHLESS: You could say that you haven't been well and needed to take some time to recover -- or, if you don't want to reveal that much, say, "I decided to take some time to find myself," which is common and sufficiently euphemistic. And the surest way to find treatment for your anxiety disorder would be to tell your family doctor you need to consult a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety disorders. Once you find one, you can quickly return to the mainstream of life.

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