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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: For the last eight years, my widowed mother-in-law has been practically living with a man whose wife had been in a nursing home in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. Recently his wife died. My mother-in-law, who is in her early 70s, would like to marry this man.

Since he has not broached the subject of marriage, she hesitates to mention it; however, she's impatient with the status quo of their relationship. As she puts it, "We aren't getting any younger."

Both are financially independent and own their own homes. She would like to combine their two households into one. The other day at lunch, she jokingly asked me, "OK, Dear Abby, what would you do?"

I did not tell her this, but if I were in her shoes, I would come right out and ask him if he wants to get married.

What would you suggest she do? I'm sure she would appreciate your advice. -- NO DEAR ABBY SUBSTITUTE

DEAR NO SUBSTITUTE: You have my permission to suggest that your mother-in-law come right out and ask the gentleman if he wants to get married.

If I were you, however, I'd remind her that although his wife had Alzheimer's, he will experience some grief over her death.

Your mother-in-law should not push for an immediate wedding date. She should allow him time to grieve. When he has worked through his grief, he will then be better able to devote himself to her.

DAR ABBY: I am 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. At the beginning of the school year, "Ben," a senior, asked me to go to the winter festival dance. I said yes. We began dating and soon we became girlfriend and boyfriend.

Two weeks before the dance, I bought a beautiful dress, and Ben came over to see it. He said liked it very much. The next day, I heard that Ben was seeing someone else. I still thought that he was taking me to the dance because he didn't say otherwise. I got all ready, but he never showed up.

Abby, that dress cost me over $60. I can't return it, because the receipt says that special-occasion dresses are not returnable. My question: Should I ask Ben to pay me back the money I spent on the dress? -- STOOD UP

DEAR STOOD UP: Ben is irresponsible and immature. He should have told you that he no longer intended to take you to the dance.

A young man who stands his girlfriend up isn't likely to reimburse her for the dress. So, put it away for another special occasion -- and a more special fellow. You won't have to look far!

DEAR ABBY: Regarding the recent lectures about fathers who don't pay child support: Please remember, that can go both ways.

My brother's wife was having an office affair for a year before he found out. She left him and their two children, and is now in an abusive relationship and is afraid to get out. Her life is one big lie after another. I've tried to help, but she refuses to talk to a counselor or a priest.

To make a long story short, my brother now has full custody of his kids, who are 4 and 5 years old, and their mother is suddenly living with another man. She sees the kids twice a week and pays my brother child support.

Abby, please don't label all divorced men "deadbeat dads." My brother is doing a wonderful job as a single parent. I even sent him a Mother's Day card! -- PROUD SISTER, MILWAUKEE

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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