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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My cousin's 9-year-old son, "Andy," has been living with me for the past few years. Now my husband has been diagnosed with cancer, and I must return Andy to his mother.

Abby, his mother is an alcoholic and drug addict. She has no income, and the list goes on. How do I return that boy to this type of environment? My immediate and extended families insist he go home to his mother, but I am worried about his future. What do I do? I need to concentrate and focus on my husband's health, but who will give Andy the care that he needs? -- WORRIED AUNT IN COLORADO

DEAR WORRIED AUNT: There is an alternative to returning Andy to that unhealthy environment, but it will require cooperation from your immediate and extended families. Keep the child with you, but have him stay with the relatives at the times your husband is getting his treatments. If they are unwilling, perhaps the parents of some of Andy's friends would be willing to help out. Please give it a try and let me know what happens, because the best place for Andy is with responsible people who know and love him.

DEAR ABBY: I am in my early 40s. Most of my good friends, whom I have known my whole life, have not given a second thought to our approaching "golden years." No one is saving money for retirement, participating in any sort of plan or even thinking about how they will manage later in life.

They all have fun, interesting, low-paying jobs. This mindset may have been fine 20 years ago, but we aren't kids anymore. I worry that when my friends are senior citizens they will be destitute. They laugh off my worries.

My parents are enjoying a modest but comfortable retirement which they worked for -- and planned for -- most of their lives. I want the same for myself and my friends. How can I inspire them to take action? -- TOM IN LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR TOM: You are a caring and wise friend who is surrounded by perpetual adolescents. Sometimes people can be their own worst enemies, and it's not always possible to save them from themselves.

Talking to people who choose to live for today while ignoring the importance of preparing for tomorrow won't work. A better approach would be to teach them by example, then cross your fingers and hope they catch on.

DEAR ABBY: Perhaps you can settle a minor disagreement between a fellow bartender and me. I say it is impolite to remove a cash tip from the bar before a patron leaves. She, however, just grabs the money and counts it -- right in front of the customer. She thinks it's OK because the customer wants to be acknowledged and thanked.

Abby, I always thank my customers, whether they tip or not, and I think counting money in front of them sends a message that we value their gratuity more than their business.

What is the polite way to handle this? -- SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED IN MARCO ISLAND, FLA.

DEAR "S.N.S.": Your co-worker's technique makes me wonder if her acknowledgment is given on a sliding scale, commensurate with the tip. (Ten percent gets a nod. Fifteen percent gets a smile. Twenty percent and she says, "Come back soon!")

I prefer your more low-key and appropriate method -- and it isn't even close.

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 $6 (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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