Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After only six years of marriage, my darling husband died on Oct. 4. He had three children and taught them good values. He once said during our marriage, "When I die, I hope my kids don't come in and start announcing, 'I want this' or 'I want that.'"

Well, sure enough, two days after my husband's death -- even before the funeral arrangements had been completed -- his son came to me with a verbal list of things they wanted.

I kindly told him that his father and I had discussed what he would like them to have, and we would take care of it sometime later. I left his kids at home while I went out to run some errands. When I returned and they had left, I found evidence that they had gone through my belongings looking, I suppose, for things they wanted.

The next day his son called and said they would be bringing my husband's ex-wife over to load up the things they wanted before they went home. The day of the funeral his son called to inform me that they had brought a truck from Arkansas to haul it all away.

Abby, I couldn't take it any more. I said, "Your daddy would be ashamed of you. To ask his widow on the day of his funeral to come over immediately afterward is incredibly crass."

Well, during the funeral, I observed his son's grief, and now I feel terribly guilty for being a wicked stepmother. Am I?

Also, is it in good taste for an ex-wife to pluck flowers from her ex-husband's grave in front of his widow, before he is lowered into the ground? I'm appalled. -- GRIEVING IN MISSOURI

DEAR GRIEVING: Stop feeling guilty for having reacted the way you did to the phone calls. You showed remarkable restraint in the face of insensitivity. Something tells me that any hurt feelings will be mended as soon as you tell "the kids" they can come and collect the loot.

As for your husband's ex-wife taking flowers from his grave at the burial, customs vary in different parts of the country. Perhaps she wanted to press them and put them in a family album. After having had three children with him, she must have been feeling some sense of loss at his death. When people are grieving, they sometimes say or do things without thinking them through. Give her the benefit of the doubt.

DEAR ABBY: I recently took a commercial airline flight home from England to the United States. Regrettably, the woman I sat next to wore too much perfume. I don't mind perfume in good taste, but this woman must have taken a bath in it. The smell was unbearable, so I first covered my nose with a blanket. Then I tried turning my head in the other direction. Then I tried to sleep. Lastly, I put the air on me, but nothing seemed to help.

What should I have done to get away from the horrible perfume smell? -- SENSITIVE NOSE IN GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.

DEAR SENSITIVE NOSE: I have heard countless complaints over the years from people who are sensitive to perfumes. Many of them suffered allergic reactions when in close quarters such as elevators. The problem is perfume wearers who think that if a little bit is good, then more must be better. Not true!

You should have informed the flight attendant that you couldn't tolerate the strong odor and asked to change your seat. If the flight wasn't fully booked, the attendant would have accommodated you.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600