DEAR ABBY: There is a row of trees and bushes along the fence that separates my neighbor's yard from mine. Our old neighbor used to keep them trimmed and under control. Unfortunately, that neighbor moved away and another family lives next door. The branches now hang over my roof -- dropping berries and leaves that cause stains on the shingles and my new contrete patio.
I asked my new neighbor several times to please keep the branches trimmed. I even had a gardener give them an estimate. The neighbors said they could not justify spending that amount of money.
After several years of waiting -- and listening to their excuses -- I trimmed the trees and bushes back myself and deposited the trimmings on the neighbors' side of the fence. They called the police. The policeman said what I did was legal, but it would have been "more neighborly" had I disposed of the trimmings myself.
The next day I offered to remove the debris, but my angry neighbor shouted, "Don't talk to me. I'll do it myself!"
This happened seven months ago. My neighbors are still not talking to my wife and me. How do I handle this? -- MISTER CHAIN SAW
DEAR MR. C.S.: You were within your rights to cut back any branches that protruded onto your property. However, it was spiteful and childish to dump the trimmings on your neighbors' property.
Apologize again -- and this time make a peace offering. As tempting as it might be to give them long-handled pruning shears, make it a gift certificate for a lovely dinner at a nice restaurant.
DEAR ABBY: I clipped out your "Commandments for a Mother-in-Law" as a reminder of how fortunate I am to have my daughter-in-law. You recently printed a rebuttal to these comments from "Disappointed Mother-in-Law," who was nonchalant about losing a relationship with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
I lost my only child, Darrin, two years ago to a brain tumor. Darrin and my daughter-in-law, Sherri, had been married only a short time before Darrin's sudden death. Although Sherri was not the person I thought my son would marry, I knew she was his choice. I respected his decision and treated Sherri as a daughter, not a daughter-in-law.
When Darrin died, I feared I had lost not only my child, but also a daughter, and any possibility of having grandchildren. However, Sherri still calls me "Mom," and we visit my son's grave several times a year. I now realize my son's "choice" was an excellent one and I have been blessed by gaining a daughter.
I feel sorry for "Disappointed." Her tragedy is worse than mine. She has lost her son, daughter-in-law, and any possibility of having a relationship with her grandchildren. -- GRATEFUL MOTHER-IN-LAW
DEAR GRATEFUL: You were a wise woman not to have allowed preconceived notions to get in the way of a strong relationship with your son and his wife. You're both stronger for having each other. Please accept my sympathy for your sad loss.
Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600