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by Abigail Van Buren

Opinionated Grandpa Needs to Find Bigger Audience

DEAR ABBY: Our grandfather is driving us bananas. He is in good health, retired and visits us every day. He is very good to us, but this everyday thing is taking a toll on us.

We love Grandpa dearly, but unless we make plans not to be home at the time of his daily visits, we are stuck listening to his opinion on everything -- and according to him, his opinion is the only right one.

We don't want to hurt his feelings, but we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Abby, how can we handle this sensitive problem? -- PERPLEXED GRANDDAUGHTER

DEAR PERPLEXED: Your grandfather obviously is lonely and bored. Call the local seniors center and find out what kind of programs they offer. Encourage Grandpa to check out the center. If they serve lunches for seniors, suggest he go for lunch a few times to make friends.

Also, look into volunteer needs at local hospitals, libraries and schools, and impress on Grandpa how much he is needed in those programs.

If Grandpa is interested in traveling, buy him some travel magazines and pick up some brochures from your travel agent. There are some interesting cruises and tours especially for seniors.

Use your imagination to come up with other projects to interest him. If he gets busy with others, he will probably have less time for visits to the family.

DEAR ABBY: I am a mother of three. The oldest is 9 years old. Although I don't know everything there is to know about parenting, I am hardly a novice.

I have been blessed with a youthful appearance, but that blessing is also a curse. I'm 36 but look 18, and I'm still asked for proof of age when I buy a bottle of cooking sherry. Also, because of my appearance, people assume that I know nothing about parenting and many of them proceed to offer advice. (Most advice-givers are older women, but a few older men do it, too.)

Abby, I find these encounters very annoying. I know my children and diligently tend to their needs. I neither need nor want the assistance or advice of strangers.

My advice to those who feel they must say something to a young mother: Say a prayer instead. -- THANKS BUT NO THANKS FOR ADVICE IN CHICAGO

DEAR THANKS: Every day I hear people complain that no one cares anymore. Obviously, those who offer you well-meaning advice care enough to want to help you. Give them credit for that. You may one day feel that sharing your experience could benefit a younger parent, and perhaps then you will see the gesture as less an intrusion and more a generosity of spirit.

DEAR ABBY: I have read your column many times and would like your advice on a problem I have.

I am 13 years old and am a partial vegetarian (I don't eat red meat or pork), which was my personal choice. When I eat at friends' or relatives' houses, they often serve red meat.

Most of my friends and family know what I eat, but when they forget, it is often a little embarrassing for me. I feel like I'm being ungrateful for not eating what they are serving me.

Abby, is this rude -- and what should I say when this happens? -- VEGGIE IN SIOUX CITY

DEAR VEGGIE: You are not being rude or ungrateful. Do not make an issue of it. Simply say, "The salad was delicious. May I please have a second helping?" (The same goes for the vegetable side dishes.)

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