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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm 80 years old, living alone and desperately lonely. I have a good wife and five fine children. My present situation is due to a major mistake I made after retirement.

My wife had a lifelong dream of spending our retirement years in the country, "in touch with nature." She had been a fair helpmate and perfect mother for 35 years, so I decided to give in to her dream and let her have her turn at a happy life. I sold our comfortable home located in an ideal midsized city and gave her a free hand at relocating us.

My wife had a major stroke two years ago, and our remote location, with no medical help for 25 miles, made matters a lot worse for her, as it took so long to get her to the emergency room. She is now in a nursing home, and I am alone in our "close to nature" house that still hasn't sold after two years.

The nursing home care is eating away at my savings. All my children live far away, and I'm afraid I can't drive much longer. Depression is setting in.

Abby, please advise seniors to locate close to help. Life can take a sudden sharp turn -- mine was destroyed like a flash of lightning. Any advice you can offer would be welcome. -- CONFUSED AND LONELY IN CANADA

DEAR CONFUSED: Although your life has taken an unexpected 180-degree turn, you can get it back on course.

Start by discussing your symptoms of depression with your doctor, because prescription medications are available that can lessen them. And waste no time in looking into what services are available for seniors in your area, such as transportation and senior recreation centers. If nothing is available, consider asking your children if they could visit more regularly and perhaps help you solve some of these problems.

Also, ask your Realtor why your home hasn't sold in two years. Have you offered it at current market value? Is it being actively marketed? If the market is slow, consider renting it -- that way you may be able to live closer to your children or your wife. Another solution may be to rent a room in your home to another senior so you are not alone all the time.

Please let me hear from you in six months. I'm rooting for you.

DEAR ABBY: I grew up in a house full of siblings. Our father told us he would not tolerate smoking, drinking or cursing under his roof, and if we wanted to do any of those things, we were free to move out.

When I entered the Air Force in 1947, it wasn't long before I was confronted with the old, "Aw, come on -- have a drink. Don't be a stick-in-the-mud."

I had several good friends who drank, but I had no desire to start. I finally came up with an answer that worked. I told anyone who asked me to drink or smoke a funny cigarette, "I'll tell you what I'll do: I won't try to make you stop if you don't try to make me start."

In almost 13 years in the Air Force, it never failed me and I still had lots of friends. I still don't drink or smoke that funny weed, and I am over 70 years old.

Abby, why can't young people today use the same line to refuse alcohol, tobacco, drugs -- and maybe even sex? They might be surprised how they could influence some of their friends to stop. I'm proud to say I did. -- BEEN THERE IN TEXAS

DEAR BEEN THERE: They can. After reading your easy-to-memorize one-liner, some of them probably will. It's short, nonjudgmental and very much to the point.

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