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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Exasperated in Massachusetts" could have been a little more plainspoken. She's the woman who said she and her husband were being driven crazy by the demands of her parents and in-laws, who wanted to spend more time with them than they have to give. In my opinion, she should tell them to "get a life."

Abby, my husband and I are both in our 70s. We raised six children and we're loving our retirement. We are both active in our church, do volunteer work and frequently socialize with our many wonderful friends. We can't find enough hours in the day. When we can find time, we visit with our children and 12 grandchildren, and we treasure those moments.

There are so many classes seniors can take -- I recently completed French and genealogy. Literacy teachers are needed everywhere (I did that, too), and volunteer opportunities abound. My husband volunteers two days a week at one of our local hospitals. We also love to travel, but right now, we're too busy.

"Exasperated" should encourage her parents and in-laws to get involved in life, and she might occasionally ask them to "baby-sit" for a weekend so she and her husband can get away alone. There are a million things for them to do instead of depending on their adult children to entertain them. -- BLESSED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR BLESSED: I couldn't agree more. You're obviously enjoying a retirement that's exciting, fulfilling and fun. Read on for more of the feedback that's come in about "Exasperated":

DEAR ABBY: You should have told "Exasperated in Massachusetts" to keep track of all the complaints her parents and in-laws are hurling at her now. That way, she'll know what to say when her kids and grandkids ignore her in another 25 years. If she thinks about it from that point of view, I'll wager she'll come up with all kinds of ways she could make time for her parents and in-laws.

What she's doing now is teaching her children ways to ignore family members -- and I predict it'll come back to haunt her. -- GLAD I'M NOT HER MOM, YORK, PA.

DEAR ABBY: I used to have the same problem as "Exasperated in Massachusetts." My 75-year-old retired father couldn't seem to understand why I couldn't drop everything at the last minute to go to a movie, go to dinner, etc. I really did want to spend time with him. I just couldn't seem to fit it in.

Then I did a "trade-out" with him. If he wanted to go to dinner, I'd ask him to pick up the dry cleaning, go to the bank for me and pick up the kids -- whatever it took to allow me time to go with him. Dinner at home -- no problem. He cooked his specialty, and we all helped clean up.

My father is older now and not well, but I'm glad we had those times together -- and I miss all those things he did so we could have time together. -- HAPPY TO HAVE HAD HELP, RENO, NEV.

DEAR HAPPY: Beautiful! Dad remained needed and useful, and you all benefited by enjoying memorable times together. Kudos to you for coming up with a compromise that made everyone happy.

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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