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by Abigail Van Buren

Man With Tight Family Ties Won't Cut Slack for Fiancee

DEAR ABBY: It happened again! My fiance, "Greg," left me behind to spend another long holiday weekend with his family. Let me give you the details.

Greg is 22 years old. He lives at home with his parents and goes to college. His parents have a lake cottage one hour away. They go there almost every weekend, and they expect Greg to come, too. In fact, we go there almost every weekend.

My sister's birthday was during the Labor Day weekend. I invited Greg to stay here and celebrate with us, because my sister lives five hours away, and we don't get to see her that often. However, Greg wanted to "spend time with his family." He insists I'm selfish for getting upset. I feel that I'm getting the "leftovers" and I'll never be first in his life.

Another thing: Greg has been wanting to get his own place, but changed his mind because his dad travels occasionally, and Greg says he doesn't want to leave his mother alone, even though he has two teen-age brothers who are still at home.

What do you think about this? -- FUMING IN FORT WORTH

DEAR FUMING: You are getting a taste of what it will be like to be married to this young man. Greg is still emotionally and financially tied to his family, and your family appears to rank a distant second place. Unless you can adjust to playing second fiddle to his parents, you may want to reconsider your engagement.

DEAR ABBY: I was struck by the letter from "Missing Them in Colorado," who had moved to a new city and whose old friends ignored her attempts to remain in contact via correspondence. Something similar happened to me.

Years ago I moved from Pittsburgh to Clearwater, Fla. I kept in touch with my friends through letters and cards. After a time, the letters dropped off, but I continued to send cards for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, births, etc.

Five years ago, six of my friends retired and moved here. I was delighted -- and we socialized at parties, dinners and sports events. Gradually, they stopped including me in their get-togethers.

In the meantime, I became friendly with one of the busboys at my favorite restaurant and his lovely family. He calls me "Mr. R.," because I'm 72 and he is 20. He attends junior college at night. I'm always included at his family's parties and dinners. He insists on cutting my grass each week and afterward invites me out to bowl or to a movie. He has become a dear friend.

Several months ago, I ran into one of my old friends and asked why I never hear from them anymore. His wife said, "Wake up and smell the coffee. You can't keep up with us timewise or financially."

Not too long after that encounter, I inherited a great sum of money. News gets around quickly, and guess who came out of the woodwork? The same couple called and invited me for dinner and said it would be nice to have me "back in the fold."

I replied that my time is precious -- and besides, they could not keep up with me financially.

I'll continue to send cards on their special days, but I will concentrate on building my friendship with Jose and his family. And guess who will be mentioned in my will?

Sorry this letter is long, Abby, but I needed to vent. -- MR. R., CLEARWATER, FLA.

DEAR MR. R.: That's what I'm here for. The value of friendship is not supposed to be based upon a person's wealth. Count your blessings, not your losses. You're a lucky man in more ways than one.

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