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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Wants Part Time Job, Not Full Time Dependence

DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I have been together for nearly five years. His mother is terminally ill. She needs 24-hour care, seven days a week.

We agreed to move her into our home. I wasn't working at the time. She has been with us since the beginning of the year.

I have decided to get a part-time job, five hours a day, five days a week. I have asked my fiance's sisters to care for their mother while I work. His sisters are in an uproar about it. One of them told me, "If you can't live on the money he's making, then there's something wrong."

Abby, it's not that. I want to be able to buy things without asking him for money all the time. His sisters are able to care for their mother. To top it off, my fiance agrees with his sisters. What would you suggest? -- DISGUSTED WITH MY FUTURE IN-LAWS

DEAR DISGUSTED: Please do not feel you must justify needing some relief from the burden you have so generously shouldered for almost a year: the role of primary caregiver. You have already done more than your share, so don't allow anyone to make you feel guilty.

If your fiance's mother is terminal -- defined as having a life expectancy of six months or less -- you may be able to obtain respite care for her from Hospice. Hospice is a service provided by about 2,000 affiliated Medicare-licensed agencies dedicated to the care of dying people and their families. Hospice doctors, nurses, counselors, aides and volunteers work to ensure that patients live comfortably at home until their death. Professional and skilled caregivers attend to the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of both the patient and the family. For more information about this service, write: The National Hospice Organization, 1901 N. Moore St., Suite 901, Arlington, Va. 22209.

A final thought: You owe no one an explanation for wanting some degree of financial independence, regardless of what your fiance's sisters say. There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip -- and a five-year engagement is no guarantee that there will be a wedding.

DEAR ABBY: If you have more room for the subject of male menopause, may I contribute my 2 cents' worth?

I was married for 20 years to a man who, although kind and generous in most respects, suffered from this syndrome for at least 60 of his recently concluded 87 years.

At 16, he married an older woman, and married the fourth one at almost 70 years of age. Three of these ladies are still living, as his wives were progressively younger. He was single only a matter of days between wives, and cheated on all of them. So, I contend that the age span for male menopause be extended from puberty until death.

At the same time, strange as it may seem, he was very generous to them all and never even slightly abusive. Interestingly, none of them put up a fight against his behavior.

Of the symptoms you list (courtesy of Dr. Blackman), only one really applied to my former husband -- reduced libido. He seemed to need the challenge of the chase to keep functioning. -- WHAM BAM, THANK YOU MA'AM, BILLINGS, MONT.

DEAR WHAM BAM: That's an astute observation. And when the thrill of the chase provides more satisfaction than the ultimate prize, it's time to reorganize one's priorities.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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