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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My father passed away five years ago. In May, my parents would have been married for 50 years.

My problem is that my mother wants to have a 50th wedding anniversary party in a hall and intends to invite 200 people to the event. She wants to have a head table with her surviving bridesmaids, best man and groomsmen, and she will even have a place setting for my father with his picture on the table, as if he were still here!

Mom has also requested a family photo with all six of us kids and our spouses and children -- which totals 26 people. She wants to be seated on a chair with a large photo of my deceased father beside her, and all of us gathered around her.

I absolutely refuse to participate in any of this, as do my brothers and sisters. We have expressed our feelings to her, but she says she doesn't care and will throw the party herself.

Her friends have phoned me and asked me to talk her out of this, as they also do not want her to make a fool of herself. They expressed that it would be impossible to act as if it were a happy event without my father present.

Abby, Dad died from cancer. It was a slow, hard death. However, my mother will not let his memory rest in peace. Should we let her have her party and grin and bear it, or should we try to convince her how deeply it bothers all of us? -- CONFUSED IN ALBERTA, CANADA

DEAR CONFUSED: What a sad situation. Take one last stab at trying to convince your mother that a small family gathering would be more appropriate than a large celebration. If she refuses to budge, she is either in a stage of dementia, or she hasn't properly dealt with the death of your father. She should be evaluated medically and psychologically at the time of her annual physical exam, if not sooner.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 42-year-old man with three wonderful children. They are all grown and in their 20s. (Yes, we had them young.) I have been married for 23 years and things have been good between my wife and me.

About a year ago, my wife -- who is an accountant -- decided she wanted to try real estate. She took a class, got her license, and now sells real estate part time. She's doing so well at it that she plans on quitting her accounting job soon and concentrating on real estate full time.

My problem is I have been having empty nest syndrome, and now my wife is working every weekend. On week nights, I sit and watch TV by myself while she works away on her computer. On the weekends I try to keep busy doing jobs around the house and cleaning, but I'm bored, lonely and depressed. I have mentioned this to my wife; she says I should find a hobby.

Abby, I don't want a hobby. I want to be with my wife. She absolutely loves her new job and talks about it constantly. I don't want to ask her to quit her job, because she would resent me for it. (And no, I don't want to sell real estate with her.) Any suggestions? -- MISERABLE IN MICHIGAN

DEAR MISERABLE: For the sake of your marriage there has to be a compromise. One or both of you must adjust your work schedule to accommodate the other.

P.S. Your wife is correct that you need something to keep you occupied while she's working. You would be far less lonely if you filled those hours with volunteer work. Nothing banishes loneliness like feeling needed.

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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