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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am living with a guy (I'll call him Ron) who has an ex-wife and three kids. Whenever there is a family reunion or any kind of family gathering, Ron's ex-wife is invited. I do not like this woman and feel very uncomfortable around her.

Abby, since they have been divorced for nearly five years, she is no longer a part of Ron's family. I realize she's the mother of his children and they are a part of the family, but SHE is not. I am divorced myself. The only thing my ex and I have in common is our son, and I never get invited to his family affairs, nor do I even think about going.

What do you think about this? -- HAD IT WITH FAMILY AFFAIRS

DEAR HAD IT: Apparently Ron's ex-wife has maintained a friendlier relationship with her former family than you have with yours. Therefore, if you are going to attend reunions and other family gatherings with your live-in guy, you had better learn to tolerate her presence.

DEAR ABBY: What does one do with wedding pictures after a divorce? My daughter has given me strict orders that she doesn't want to look at them again.

These are large wedding portraits that include many family members along with the once bride and groom. Some of the relatives have passed away and the photographs are precious to me.

I hope you can help me. Please do not use my name. -- CALIFORNIA READER

DEAR READER: On the backs of the portraits, write the names of those in the pictures and their relationship to you, along with the date they were taken. Then put the pictures away. They are part of your family history and some of your relatives may want them someday.

DEAR ABBY: I had been happily married to "Jake" for six years. Then last year, things started to go downhill. His sister committed suicide. I suppose I could have been more supportive, but I've never had anybody close to me die before and I couldn't handle it. Soon after, I found alcohol hidden in cabinets, which means that Jake, who had been sober for 10 years, had started drinking again.

One night, one of his female co-workers took him out and got him drunk. He said all he remembers is waking up in her bed. To his credit, he came home and admitted what he had done. Naturally, I kicked him out.

A week later, Jake collapsed on the job and was taken to the hospital where they found cancer all through his body. I rushed to his side. He begged me to forgive him and promised to stop drinking and to work hard at our marriage for his remaining months.

I don't know what to do. I still love him, but I don't want to get hurt again. He has broken promises before, but I just can't let him die alone. Please help me, Abby. -- TORN APART

DEAR TORN: Please open your heart and your arms to your dying husband. You will never regret it.

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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