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by Abigail Van Buren

Price for Widow's Hand Is More Than Man Will Pay

DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing a widow who lives in the home she shared with her husband. His will allows her to live there as long as she wishes or until she remarries. At that time, the title will pass to the children from her husband's first marriage.

Some time ago, the stepchildren offered to "buy her out" for a substantial sum. It was a one-time offer, and she did not accept. Now she's taken the position that anyone who marries her must pay her the amount that was offered her.

Abby, I own my own home and would like to marry this woman, but I cannot bring myself to accept her terms. I feel I may as well shop for a wife by catalog, which I would never do.

Please tell me what you think about this. I don't want to be taken advantage of. -- CONFUSED IN FLORIDA

DEAR CONFUSED: Your lady friend's demand gives new meaning to the term "creative financing." A person who insists on a real estate deal before agreeing to marriage is negotiating a business deal, not a lifetime commitment. My advice: Run for the hills!

DEAR ABBY: I am a brand-new mom, excited about celebrating my child's first birthday. My mother-in-law is an extremely creative person and has decorated all of her grandchildren's birthday cakes. I know she will insist on making the cake and decorating it the way she would like. However, I'd really like to make the cake myself because I'm the mom, and it's my child's first birthday.

There will be a lot of relatives and friends at the party, and I don't want the cake to become an issue. Do I let my mother-in-law carry on her tradition, or would it be OK if I bake and decorate the cake for my child? -- NEW MOM IN OHIO

DEAR NEW MOM: Plan the party, decide on the theme, tell your mother-in-law what the theme of the party will be, and let that wonderful woman do what she does best. Then thank the Lord you have such a generous and creative person in your life. You are fortunate, indeed.

P.S. Ask your mother-in-law to show you how it's done so the tradition doesn't die when she is gone.

DEAR ABBY: Ever since I saw the movie "Schindler's List," I have been curious about why small stones were placed on the grave markers in the Jewish cemetery. I wish it had been explained at the end of the movie, but it wasn't. I'm sure many other people wondered about it just as I did. Can you tell me the reason? -- CURIOUS IN ILLINOIS

DEAR CURIOUS: According to Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz in Beverly Hills, there are two reasons -- practical and mystical. Practically speaking, stones signify that someone has visited the grave to honor the deceased. The stones are placed in lieu of flowers, the money going to charity.

Looking at it from the mystical perspective, the body returns to dust, and the soul returns to God.

DEAR ABBY: You periodically print letters about "random acts of kindness," and I'd like to share my experience.

A few years ago I had to use a walker before having hip replacement surgery. A young man in the post office parking lot saw me struggling to get my leg into the car. He ran over, lifted my leg into the car, and went one step further -- he tucked my long coat under my bottom! -- PATRICIA IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR PATRICIA: All I can say is, that young man had his HEART in the right place.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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