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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Several years ago my husband's sister asked us if we wanted an old schoolhouse bell she had purchased. She was moving and could not take it with her. Because we like antiques, we accepted her offer.

After much effort and paying to rent a moving truck -- the bell weighed 1,500 pounds -- my husband moved it to our house. It was so heavy he got it no farther than the top of our driveway, and there it sat for more than two years! It became obvious that the bell was just too large and heavy for us to do anything with. It would have cost us a small fortune to have someone build a stand for it, so I asked a local auctioneer if he could sell the bell for us.

When my sister-in-law learned I had sold the bell, she had a fit! She thought I should have asked her permission to sell the bell, as she had considered the bell only on "loan" to us. I never considered a 1,500-pound item that we paid to move, sitting in my driveway for more than two years, a "loan." I'm angry that this has caused such a rift in my husband's family.

I was always taught that when you are given something, it is yours to do with as you please. My husband feels caught in the middle, and we are now having marital problems for the first time in our 14-year marriage. What do you suggest? -- MELVA IN PHILLIPSBURG, N.J.

DEAR MELVA: I, too, have always thought that once a gift is given it belongs to the recipient to keep or dispose of as he or she wishes. However, the bell is gone and there is nothing any of you can do at this point to retrieve it. Perhaps offering to split the money you received for the bell will soothe your sister-in-law's wounded spirit. In any case, you and your husband should not let his sister's attitude sabotage your marriage.

DEAR ABBY: Tomorrow I'll be celebrating my 64th birthday, and even though I have read your column faithfully for many years, I never thought I would be writing you for advice. This is the dilemma:

I am computer literate, while my wife of 45 years has been somewhat apprehensive about attempting to learn computer basics. Our grandson is 14 and would very much like to have a computer. My wife is adamantly opposed to it at this time. She says that when he graduates from high school, she will contemplate getting him one. I say by that time our grandson would have lost valuable time and the opportunities that come from having knowledge of the computer. There are many youngsters who, upon completion of high school, are forced to go to work. Consequently, their formal education is set aside until later, or perhaps never.

My wish would be for our grandson to continue his formal education after graduating from high school. However, in the event that he does not, I think we should get him a computer NOW, so that he could gain the necessary knowledge to compete in the labor market. As you well know, almost every workplace now requires employees to have at least some knowledge of computers.

Whatever your answer is, I will honor it. If it is contrary to my thinking, I'll never again mention it to my wife. However, if you agree with me, please try to convince my wife that we are doing a disservice to our grandson by not getting him a computer now. Thank you. -- MANNY IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR MANNY: I agree with you. Computer proficiency is a skill that students need today. Colleges, as well as employers, expect applicants to be computer literate. If your wife doubts this, she should place a call to some of the local high schools and inquire. Perhaps that will reassure her.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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