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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I would like to share my thoughts regarding the 80-year-old talkaholic. This man's wife needs support. Perhaps the wife could ask for "group support" by inviting listeners to raise their hands so the gentleman knows they have heard his stories before and he is talking too much. He knows what he is doing and is taking unfair advantage of his audience and his age. He is not a fragile old man. He is an abuser. -- DOWN WITH NOISE POLLUTION, LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR DOWN: I strongly disagree. Given the man's age and the description of his behavior, it is possible that he suffers from age-related dementia and is not aware that he is repeating himself. What you're suggesting would not be helpful; it would humiliate him. What's needed is patience, compassion and a medical evaluation. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Speaking as someone who is getting up there in age (today is my 60th birthday), I have taken a different tack regarding older people who ramble on or repeat stories from their youth. I encourage them and listen to them.

There is no reason why a topic should be discussed only once. My foremost reason for doing this is because, when I reach 70, 80 or 90 (if I'm lucky enough to do so), I hope my friends and relatives will be kind enough to be patient with me.

It strikes me that the wife and friends are not very social. They are unkind and selfish, thinking only of themselves. What possible harm can there be in letting older people enjoy themselves and spending a few moments paying attention to them? Someday they'll be gone, and you will wish you had been kinder, more patient and more caring. -- JUST MY 2 CENTS' WORTH, PEMBROKE PINES, FLA.

DEAR 2 CENTS' WORTH: Your 2 cents are among the most valuable I have read on this subject. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I just finished the letter from the wife complaining about her husband who tells the same stories over and over. I recently wrote something that would answer that letter. It is titled "Blow It Away," and you have my permission to print it if you wish.

Wheat, after the harvest, must be thrashed

To separate the chaff from the grain.

The chaff is light and worthless,

And is easily blown away.

The things people say to us

Are a lot like the wheat.

Some of it has truth and value, and

Some of it, like the chaff, is worthless.

Sometimes people will tell the same jokes and stories over and over,

say provocative things, just to get your attention,

quickly overreact to your viewpoints,

always play the devil's advocate, or

just talk and talk and talk.

People usually have a reason for what they say, and

We need to listen carefully, and even

Look behind their words, and between the lines

To separate the chaff from the grain,

Keep what is worthwhile, and

With a quiet, patient understanding,



DEAR PHIL: Bravo! Your poem seems to have been inspired by the writing of Maria Mulock Craik, whose poetry has been featured in this column.

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