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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 34-year-old mother of four kids, ages 17 to 6. My 9-year-old boy has been raised by my mother since he was 6 months old. I was in the middle of a divorce when he was born. I wanted to give him up for adoption, but Mother would not have it. I usually never let my mother make decisions for me, but in that case, I thought she might be right. My dad, mother and older sister took the baby and moved away.

Three years ago, they all moved back into the subdivision in which I live with my second husband and three other kids. Dad died four months later. My sister (age 50) died the following year. Now my 76-year-old mother -- who does not drive -- depends on my two older brothers and me to get around.

My brothers won't allow Mother to move in with them unless she gives my son back to me, because their children are grown and gone. She said, "Over my dead body." Now she is asking my husband and me to sell our home so we can buy a bigger one with her.

Abby, I'm not sure I can handle my mother living with us, constantly checking on me and my every move. My husband and I like to have time alone. We can't afford to do much, so we let the kids stay overnight with friends so we can have the house to ourselves. Mother told me it's wrong to have sex in the middle of the day, and that I should spend all my waking hours with the kids until they're grown. Only then will I have time alone with my husband. I told her that may have been good for her, but it's not for me.

What do you think? -- TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING

DEAR TRYING: While I understand your mother's firm stance in not "giving back" her grandchild, what she is proposing is a recipe for disaster. Do NOT buy a home with her unless it is a duplex or one that includes a separate mother-in-law unit. Privacy is essential to your marriage, and your mother's ideas, while they may have worked for her, are outdated.

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Hurting in New York," I feel compelled to share my story. Her son's wife had died, but "Hurting" didn't attend the calling hours at the mortuary because there had been a falling-out after the family business split up.

Several years ago, my husband and his father also parted ways in business. He spoke to his father only if absolutely necessary. I didn't talk to anybody. A few years later, our son was killed in an accident, and my mother-in-law was one of the first people at our door. She wrapped her arms around me, and we cried together. Many years before, she had lost a son, too, and I knew she understood my pain more than anyone. Our relationship isn't perfect now, but it's much better than it was.

I know "Hurting" was trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation, but times of grief often give us the opportunity to say, "I'm sorry," in more ways than one. -- HEALING IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HEALING: Your argument is a compelling one, and you may very well be right. However, I caution people who are trying to bridge a family rift during an emotionally charged situation to be prepared for at least the possibility of another rejection.

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