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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was married to my high school sweetheart for nine years, until he cheated on me. While I was at home taking care of our 1-year-old son, he was seeing other women. The one he was seeing when we divorced is now his wife.

Since she caused the breakup of my marriage, I really don't want to have anything to do with either of them socially.

I live 1,000 miles away from my family. When I visit them, my stepmother makes it a point to invite my ex and this woman to our family gatherings, including family reunions. The stress has caused me to have health problems. My stepmother is well aware of this.

I don't want to be a party pooper, but my feelings should come first. I am one of nine kids, and she does this only to me. It is very hard to sit across the table from them, as I feel very strongly that they don't belong in the picture. Any advice? -- HEARTSICK IN FORT ST. LUCIE, FLA.

DEAR HEARTSICK: Since your father and stepmother are aware of the circumstances that ended your marriage, and the fact that you are uncomfortable in the presence of your ex-husband and his new wife, but continue to invite them -- face it: They have made a choice, and it isn't you. Before you return for another family reunion, ask them why they invite your ex-husband and his wife, and make your plans accordingly.

DEAR ABBY: Here is another addition to your series on humorous inscriptions on tombstones:

My late husband, Jim Steele, was a sports announcer for WDSU-TV in New Orleans during the 1970s. At the end of his few minutes of live TV sports announcing, he would say, "Time's up. Gotta go."

Jim died Jan. 1, 1991. On his headstone I inscribed, "Time's up. Gotta go." Very appropriate, don't you agree? -- JIM'S LOVING WIFE, GLORIA W. STEELE, METAIRIE, LA.

DEAR GLORIA: Indeed it is. You are not the only reader to comment on the tombstone letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The letter you printed about tombstone inscriptions reminds me of two others you might be interested in.

First, on a recent trip to Key West, Fla., we took the Conch Train tour of the city. When we passed an old cemetery, our guide told us of one tombstone inscription: "I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK."

When my first wife died a few years ago, I ordered a headstone for her and one for myself, leaving the final date blank, of course. But I added beneath my name, "OFTEN IN ERROR -- SELDOM IN DOUBT." I hope it gives some visitor a smile. -- G.B.F., GULFPORT, MISS.

DEAR G.B.F.: I'm sure it will! Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The recent letter in your column about tombstones spurred me to write.

"Trouble" was her nickname. She was 80-something and always enjoyed passing me articles in church that brought a smile to my face. God has "Trouble" now, but in memory of her I share this:

ON A TOMBSTONE

Remember, Friend, as you pass by,

As you are now, so once was I.

As I am now, you will be --

So be prepared to follow me.

Under that, in black crayon, was written:

To follow you I am not content --

Until I learn which way you went!

-- REBECCA IN TENNESSEE

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