Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Dead Husband's Ashes Give Live Suitor Pause

DEAR ABBY: I am a 70-year-old man whose wife died two years ago. For the past year, I have been dating a spry widow whose husband died about the same time my wife died. We have a lovely relationship and have talked about getting married.

The problem is her dead husband's ashes. She keeps them in a fancy gold box on the mantle of her fireplace. I just recently found out what is in the box, and I think this is morbid. Sometimes she stands in front of the box and reminisces about her dead husband. Her family tells me that she has requested that her husband's ashes be placed in her coffin when she dies. I find this somewhat disturbing.

I had a serious talk with her, so she knows I object to having the remains of her husband on the mantle. I would like a permanent relationship, and she has told me she loves me and is interested in getting married. However, she is not willing to remove the ashes from the mantle.

Abby, do other people keep ashes of the dead in their homes? How can I get her to remove them? -- ASHES IN AUDUBON, N.J.

DEAR ASHES IN AUDUBON: It is unusual but not unheard of to keep the ashes of a loved one in one's home. It may be that your ladyfriend needs more time to completely resolve her loss. Your understanding would only enhance your relationship with her. However, I suggest that you ask her to please keep the ashes in a more private place -- a spare room or in her personal closet. Her degree of willingness to compromise should tell you volumes about the future of a relationship with her.

I would like to hear from others who have kept the ashes of their beloved mate.

DEAR ABBY: I just had to write after I read the letter from "Confused in San Diego," whose tightwad boyfriend presented her with a bill for money he had "loaned" her over their year-long relationship.

A number of years ago, my boyfriend "Martin" and I were bicycling on a back-country road on an island in Canada. We were miles from nowhere when I got a flat tire. It was just getting dark and threatening to rain, and I was not looking forward to waiting alone while Martin rode to the campground to get our car so he could drive back and get me.

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a man on a bicycle rounded the corner. He stopped and offered us a brand-new inner tube he had recently purchased. I asked him how much we owed him. He said he had paid $3.65 at the local store. I pulled out an American $5 bill to give him when Martin stopped me. "Wait a minute," he said, "with the exchange rate for American money, that makes it only $2.73." He then insisted the man give us the appropriate amount of change -- to the penny. I was mortified! The kind man was good-natured about the whole incident, gave Martin his change, and rode off.

Fortunately, after many more embarrassing incidents, I finally dumped Martin and his penny-pinching ways. Abby, your comment, "This one is not above using the purse strings to try to control you," was right on the money. -- PENNY-WISED UP

DEAR PENNY-WISED UP: I wasn't sure whether to file your letter under "The Kindness (and Tolerance) of Strangers" or "Miserly Mortals," so I printed it instead!

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600