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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Six years ago, my father buried his sister as she instructed in her will. Her son (my cousin) now complains to my father that there is no marker on his mother's grave.

As long as I can remember, my father's relatives have expected him to be the "godfather" to all of them. He buried his parents with no financial help from his eight brothers and sisters. He also paid for a lovely headstone for his grandparents' graves. His siblings complained that it wasn't fancy enough.

My father has paid for new cars, home repairs, etc., for this brother or that sister, but the only time they call him is to ask for more money. Most of them earn more than he does, but they blow their money on gambling or drinking.

My mother finally divorced Dad because his generosity has enabled his dysfunctional family to continue their wasteful ways. Father is in complete denial, but believe me, Mom was right. Dad made his wife and children do without, while never questioning his siblings' constant requests for money.

I say, if my drug-addicted cousin wants the Taj Mahal on his mother's grave, he should arrange for it and pay for it himself.

Despite my father's generosity to those who don't appreciate it, I still love him. I'm just fed up with relatives who have no conscience about spending the nest egg that was meant to take care of him in his retirement. Sign me ... TIRED OF BEING THE GODFATHER'S DAUGHTER

DEAR TIRED: Until your father finds the courage to say no to these moochers, they'll continue to regard him as a soft touch. I maintain: If someone takes advantage of you once, shame on him. If he takes advantage of you twice, shame on you.

I sympathize with your feelings, but it's your father's money and how he spends it is his decision. You can bet that he gets much gratification out of being the provider and the symbolic head of the family.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend "Sally" just called and told me that she had been visiting at her brother's house. While she was there, her sister-in-law showed her a "cute little trick" she had taught Sally's 2-year-old nephew. Abby, this sister-in-law is not exactly the family favorite. She handed him a lit cigarette, and he sucked in and blew out smoke! When Sally told her how disgusting that was, the boy's 4-year-old sister piped up, demanding her turn -- which she was given.

I told Sally to call child protective services, that this is child abuse. She refused because she's afraid that it will cause a family rift.

Abby, what can be done to help those kids? -- DISGUSTED IN VIRGINIA

DEAR DISGUSTED: If, after all the recent media attention focused on the addictive nature of tobacco, Sally's sister-in-law has not realized that encouraging her children to smoke is dangerous to their health, something must be wrong with her.

The family should be told about this woman's stupid and irresponsible behavior in the hope that family pressure will force her to stop. It is possible that what Sally observed was a one-time lapse in judgment. However, if it persists, I agree, child protective services should be notified.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend (I'll call her Jennifer) is getting married soon, and she is busy making her plans.

Jennifer's stepmother told her that the maid of honor and the bridesmaids must be unmarried virgins. Is this true?

This news has disturbed Jennifer because all the friends she has chosen to be in the wedding party are married. -- BRIDE'S BEST FRIEND, NEW JERSEY

DEAR BEST FRIEND: Jennifer's stepmother was either joking or she is misinformed. The bride chooses her best friends or closest relatives to be in her wedding party without regard to whether they are virgins or not. Marital and sexual status have nothing whatsoever to do with the honor of attending the bride.

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.)

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