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by Abigail Van Buren

Boy's Concern With Death Gives His Mother Pause

DEAR ABBY: A promise I made to my child is tearing me apart. My 7-year-old son, "Lyle," has been talking a lot about death. A while back, we were in the car and he brought the subject up again. He said how sad he would be in heaven alone, and asked that should anything ever happen to him, if I would go with him. I promised that I would, and it seemed to make him feel much better. We talked about how we would fly down to Earth and touch our loved ones to give them comfort, even though they would never see us.

That promise I made is killing me now, because, God forbid if something bad did happen to Lyle, I could never go with him. I have four other children who need me. I'm afraid if I take back the promise that gave my son so much comfort, it will upset him. Also, I need to know why, at his tender age, Lyle is talking so much about death. Is this normal? Sometimes it scares me. -- TORN MOTHER IN VERMONT

DEAR TORN MOTHER: Do not "take back" the promise. Your son was asking for reassurance that you would never leave him, and you gave it to him. Because you are concerned about this preoccupation with death, gently try to draw him out when he brings it up again. If you are not satisfied with his responses, enlist the aid of a child psychologist.

DEAR Abby: I dated "Carter" for five months. During that time, he bought me all kinds of presents, from flowers to tires for my car. I never asked Carter for anything. In fact, I told him twice that there were "too many presents." He responded that I was insulting him, and told me I should just accept them graciously and say thank you.

I tried to reciprocate by doing things for him. I would cook him dinner every time he came over, and give him fresh produce from our garden. I even loaned Carter my car when his was in the shop.

Now that we are broken up, he is demanding that I return all his gifts and pay him $300 for the tires or he will sue me. (I have proof they were gifts, and given with love.) I feel Carter is wrong. Should I give him back the things and pay him? -- SORRY I EVER MET HIM IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SORRY: Once a gift is given, it belongs to the recipient to do with as she (or he) wishes. However, in this case, since you now know they were intended as strings to bind you to him, it might be better to return them and be rid of him once and for all.

P.S. He can sue you if he wishes, but whether he could WIN is another matter. I hope for his sake he won't decide to try.

DEAR ABBY: I was having a snack in a restaurant a few days ago. A mother and her two young children were sitting at the next table. The younger child -- a boy about 3 -- picked up the salt shaker and licked the top of it. The mother instructed the older child to take the salt shaker to an unoccupied table and exchange it for another salt shaker.

Should I have spoken to her about it, or taken it off the other table myself and turned it over to an employee? I feel I should have done something, but I didn't. -- FEELING GUILTY, KILGORE, TEXAS

DEAR FEELING GUILTY: You should have informed your server or the manager of the restaurant about what you saw, so the item could have been removed and sanitized. And shame on that mother for what she was teaching her older child. Mother of the year, she's not.

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