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DEAR ABBY: I think you were a bit harsh regarding the mother-in-law of "Forgotten in Idaho." You called her "flawed and self-centered" because she has refused to visit her son and his family during the last five years. (Apparently she went once, while her husband was still living.)

I'm 73, and can't travel comfortably for a number of physical reasons I don't care to share with my children. I also have a full life with my friends, volunteer work, plus e-mails and phone contact with all of my four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Being with a large group -- even family -- for more than a few hours, especially after a tiring trip, takes a physical toll on me. I never seem able to take my medicines on time.

I don't feel I'm selfish, nor do my children, if I don't choose to visit them at their homes. They visit me when they can, and we always have a good time. I accept them and their chosen lifestyles; they accept my preferences without my having to give them a detailed explanation.

You were wrong to call the woman "self-centered and flawed." Perhaps it's the son and daughter-in-law who are selfish and self-centered to expect his mother to conform to their wishes. I'll bet you get quite a few women challenging your answer. -- LEE B. IN SANTA BARBARA

DEAR LEE: You're right. I got blasted. Not only have I been flogged with wet noodles, I'm drenched in marinara sauce. Here's a "taste":

DEAR ABBY: Flawed? "Flawed" because she doesn't care to make trips to Idaho? That lady has a life of her own, for crying out loud. Let her live it! If she's like most women our age, it's the first time in her life she comes first instead of the kids. Apparently she's active and healthy. She certainly isn't "flawed," as you assert.

I'm just short of 75, and let me tell you, about 2 1/2 hours with the little ones and I'm ready to go home. I am not alone in that feeling, and none of us consider ourselves "flawed." Bad choice of words, my dear. -- ANN F., JOLIET, ILL.

DEAR ABBY: You owe that senior an apology for the harsh criticism when she did nothing wrong. Many single women her age are demanding of their children. They should be proud and happy she is doing well and enjoying what could be the last 10 years of her life. Grandmotherly feelings come in our 40s and 50s. By our 70s, we have great-grandchildren and, trust me, enjoying them from afar is sufficient. Nature meant those final years to finally bring some enjoyment in life from OUR choice of recreation -- not our children's. If not now, when? -- ANOTHER INDEPENDENT SENIOR (75) WHO WILL ALSO NEVER FLY

DEAR ABBY: I can relate to that mother-in-law because we have a similar problem. The "real" reason we don't visit our four grandchildren often is because they are undisciplined and have never been taught the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It's stressful and exhausting to be around them. Please remind parents that relatives do not want to be around undisciplined and poorly behaved children. -- ATLANTA GRANDPARENTS

DEAR ABBY: The mother-in-law is 72. As people age, they tend to be uncomfortable leaving their homes and routines. That's one reason why retirement communities and care facilities have structured activities and schedules. It gives the aging comfort to know what's coming.

So cut that mother-in-law some slack. And tell "Idaho" she has two choices: Take it or leave it. -- HEIKE IN ST. CLOUD, MINN.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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