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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 66-year-old married man. My wife and I were childhood sweethearts and have been married for 46 years.

Six years ago, she developed Alzheimer's disease and has been in a nursing home for the last year.

Even though she does not recognize me or our children, I have gone to visit her every day, until six months ago when I reduced it to twice a week because she had no idea who I was, which I found very depressing.

The nursing staff and my children noticed my depression and encouraged me to "break away." As I reduced my visits, I wound up with a guilty conscience that is difficult to cope with.

My children have encouraged me to seek female companionship, something I had longed for, but I was concerned about what others would think.

However, for the last four months I have been romantically involved with a 62-year-old neighbor lady whose husband died nine years ago. We have taken a few trips together. My children and brothers and sisters enthusiastically approve of our relationship and say they have noticed a positive change in me.

Abby, my guilt feelings have increased even though I haven't changed my visiting routine to the nursing home. I would greatly appreciate your comments on my situation. -- TORN IN OLYMPIA, WASH.

DEAR TORN: I can understand your feelings of guilt. Fate has placed you between a rock and a hard place. You are a married man with an absentee wife.

A psychiatrist, psychologist, grief counselor or clergyperson could help you absolve those feelings.

If there is an Alzheimer's support group in your area, join it. There are thousands of support groups for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, and the national office of the Alzheimer's Association (1-800-272-3900) will be happy to refer you.

Incidentally, on Oct. 5 and 6 in more than 200 communities, the Alzheimer's Association will hold its 1996 Memory Walk, the only nationwide event for Alzheimer's disease, to raise funds for caregiver programs.

DEAR ABBY: I am 36 years old and my husband is 38. We have been married three years. This is a second marriage for both of us, and I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world.

I have never had children but my husband has one -- a 10-year-old son who is living with his mother in another state.

Abby, I am tired of being asked, "When are you two going to have a family?"

I honestly do not want children and my husband doesn't want children -- in fact he had a vasectomy shortly after his son was born.

What do you tell people who keep asking, "When are you two going to have a family?" -- SICK OF IT

DEAR SICK OF IT: Use the "Dear Abby" response when you are asked a question you don't want to answer:

"If you'll forgive me for not answering, I'll forgive you for asking."

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law is basically a nice person, but after 20 years, he has yet to recognize me as a person. I am simply "Ken's wife."

I have been a very conscientious daughter-in-law, remembering all the special occasions, Father's Day, his birthday, etc. But despite my efforts he still treats me like I am invisible.

Each Christmas, he presents my husband with a nice check (in front of me). It is in an envelope bearing Ken's name. I try to ignore the slight, but each time I feel that I have been slapped in the face.

Abby, am I being petty? Or do I have a point? -- SENSITIVE CANADIAN

DEAR CANADIAN: You are not being "petty" and you do have a point. Your father-in-law is incredibly insensitive. Your husband should "educate" him in the social graces. He should remind his Dad that you have a name.

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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