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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm in quite a dilemma. My 40-year-old daughter is not speaking to me because I'm trying to prevent her from becoming the laughingstock of the century. She's planning to be married for the fourth time. Her first marriage was to escape her abusive father. The second was to provide a father for her child from the first marriage. The third was a stupid mistake.

Now she says she wants the wedding she has never had -- ivory dress, 6-foot train, and God knows what else. I told her she was creating a circus, a humiliation, the embarrassment of all time. I know the bride should have her wishes carried out to the letter on "her" day -- but she has already had three previous "days" that did not work. My daughter falls in and out of love as the wind changes.

I know I shouldn't throw stones because I have been married three times, but my present marriage to a man I thank the Lord for every day has lasted 17 years. I have talked to her fiance. He seems to be level-headed, and he, too, would like to avoid a spectacle. I'm sure he didn't win any Brownie points when he sided with me. It's his first marriage.

Abby, what can I do about my daughter? I don't like being at odds with her. -- OLD-FASHIONED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: There's nothing you can do. Since your daughter refuses to listen to you and her fiance, I doubt she would be open to any input from me. Of course, you are correct that simplicity should be the keynote for the ceremony and reception, but you can't live your daughter's life for her.

Wish her well and pray that your community has a short memory.

DEAR ABBY: The letter in your column from the reader who thought it would be a good idea to turn closed military bases into jails got me thinking. As a retired military person, I must agree in part with the writer of that letter. The facilities are there, and so is the equipment to train our young people to become good citizens.

But why use them to warehouse criminals?

Some of them could be converted to campuses for vocational schools around the country to help disadvantaged youth. Not all of our young people are college material -- but all of them need to learn how to earn a living. Students could spend part of their day in classroom learning and the rest in a shop, learning a skill. At the completion of their training they could be the people they would like to be.

We taxpayers have bought those bases and equipped them with everything that is needed to run a military installation. If the selected base needs more equipment, some could be moved from other bases that are being closed.

If some of the buildings are substandard, I can't imagine a better place to start training those young people for a trade in the building industry.

A final thought: Most of these young people would rather have a big hug and an "I love you" than parents who let them grow up in the wrong way. Speaking for myself, the return of love from a young person is the greatest gift I ever had. Parents, wake up!

Abby, please do not use my name or location. -- RETIRED MILITARY MAN

DEAR MILITARY MAN: You have hit upon a terrific idea, one that is well worth exploring. Such campuses would be a source of pride (and employment) in the surrounding communities. Our children are our most precious resource, and giving them the tools they need to enrich their lives will also enrich our country.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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