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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 73, in poor health and desperately need your advice. My husband died two years ago after a long illness and crushing medical expenses. I can no longer care for our property as well as I once could and would like to sell it and move to town to be closer to my stores, my doctors and church.

The problem is that my oldest son, "Doug," who has lived many states away for 25 years, wants the property. He wants me to stay here until he retires -– which would be several years from now. From time to time, Doug has helped me out financially, and that makes me feel obligated.

My other two children know what an awful time I'm having making ends meet. They think I should sell now if that's what I want. It's lonely here and winters are bad. I would like to sell as soon as possible and repay Doug the money he has given me.

When Doug learned what I wanted to do, he said some nasty things about me to the other two –- and to some friends of the family. It was very hurtful. I have prayed about this, and hope no one else has to bear this kind of worry when they get old. Please tell me what to do. -- HURT AND LOST IN INDIANA

DEAR HURT AND LOST: Under no circumstances should you continue to live in a place where you feel lonely and isolated. You must do what is right for YOU. First on that list should be to get an appraisal of your property from a reputable company. Your lawyer or your banker can recommend one. After that, inform your children what the asking price will be. If Doug wants to buy it, fine. If not, put it on the market.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 27-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old boy. After a year of dating, we moved in with my fiance, "Gary," two months ago. It's been a huge transition, and my son and our cat have adjusted beautifully. However, I have not.

Last night, Gary and I talked at length about the possibility that I wasn't "ready" for this move after all. His response was that if I moved out, our relationship would be over.

I love Gary and don't want to lose him, but all my life I've needed to do things on my own. I don't know if I can ever be truly happy living with a man. Before my son and I moved in with Gary, I missed him terribly every minute we were apart. I now realize how much I miss my space and having my own place. Am I being selfish? Will I ever be happy cohabitating? -- CONFUSED IN VERMONT

DEAR CONFUSED: Needing independence is not selfish, and for your fiance to give an ultimatum is controlling. Listen to your gut -– it's giving you an important message. Leaving Gary may be traumatic for your son. Please be sure he has all the emotional support he needs.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I enjoy eating at buffet-style restaurants. Drinks are usually brought to the table by servers, who also clear away empty dishes and attend to any additional needs we may have.

Our question: What percentage of tip is appropriate? Some patrons leave none at all. Awaiting your reply. -- SENIOR SWEETHEARTS IN PALM HARBOR, FLA.

DEAR SENIOR SWEETHEARTS: In a buffet-style establishment, the appropriate tip would be 10 percent –- or more, if the service is outstanding.

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