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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Gil," and I are in our mid-20s and have a small son. We work hard for everything we have and enjoy a wonderful life.

My problem is my mother-in-law, "Blanche." Gil learned of her drug habit at an early age, and he never had a "normal" childhood. Now that he's an adult, nothing has changed. In the past three years, Blanche has overdosed twice that we know of and can't hold a job because she has stolen from every place she has worked.

Last Christmas while she was visiting us, she had the nerve to steal 14 prescription pain killers from our medicine cabinet. Blanche also owes us about $2,000. The last time she was here, she wrote Gil a check so she'd have money for the flight home -- then stopped payment on it, causing our account to be overdrawn.

When our son was 14 months old, he found a loaded gun under his grandmother's couch! Thankfully, I was there. Needless to say, our child is not allowed to visit her without me, and Gil is in full agreement. However, I would like Gil to sever all ties with his mother before she hurts our family again.

Gil is a loving man with a big heart. Despite all the pain his mother has caused him, he still loves her. Blanche feeds off that and always worms her way back into his life. Abby, is it wrong of me to want my husband to permanently cut his mother out of his life? -- ANONYMOUS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, NORFOLK, VA.

DEAR ANONYMOUS D-I-L: I don't blame you for feeling as you do, but you cannot prevent your husband from having a relationship with his mother. Next time Blanche visits, make sure she has a round-trip ticket, lock up any prescription drugs and continue to closely monitor her with your child at ALL times. Then pray she is agreeable to counseling and will turn over a new leaf before she's jailed for theft. She is obviously ill and cannot be trusted to act responsibly.

DEAR ABBY: I am a widow in my late 60s, attractive and youthful looking (I'm told). For the past three years, I have been going out with a nice man my age, "Dell." I have him over for home-cooked meals, and I occasionally pay for our dinners and movies out. Dell is also my guest for dinners at my club, and of course I pay the club dues.

Sometimes I pick him up in my car for our dates and day trips. He can well afford to take me out and pick up the check, but he always says, "Let's keep it even."

I am becoming more and more uncomfortable when we're having dinner out, because I resent being expected to split the cost of everything. Dell is an educated, interesting man. I find myself wondering if I'm out of step with the times -- or if he's cheap.

Abby, I feel used. I'm beginning to lose respect for Dell. I'm from the old school: If a man asks a lady out, he pays. What's your opinion? Should I tell him I'm tired of nit-picking expenses and stop paying for half of everything? -- FRUSTRATED IN THE LONE STAR STATE

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Sitting quietly while resentment builds will eventually destroy your relationship if you allow it to continue. Remind him that you are from the old school and what that means to you. But remember that it also means you will pick up the check when you call and ask him out. It will be interesting to see whether you wind up playing solitaire once you lay your cards on the table.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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