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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Longs to Have Empty Nest All to Herself Again

DEAR ABBY: I have a 19-year-old daughter, "Caitlin," whom I love very much. Despite a few rocky periods, we have a great relationship.

Caitlin moved in with her fiance shortly after she turned 18, and they were married a few months ago. After she left, I went through an "empty nest" period because it was the first time I was alone in 18 years.

When my daughter started coming to visit once a week, I was thrilled. It was sad when she had to leave, but I looked forward to "our days." Then I had to have surgery, and Caitlin came to take care of me. I have since recovered, but now -- two months later -- she's still visiting every day. She sits around watching TV and wants me to sit with her.

I love spending time with my daughter, but frankly, I need a break! I have tried "hinting" that she has her own house, pets and husband, and it would be fine if she didn't visit every day. It falls on deaf ears.

I don't want to hurt Caitlin's feelings, but I got used to being alone, and I miss it sometimes. How can I get her to stop coming over so often without making her think I don't want her? -- CRAVING SOME SOLITUDE IN ARKANSAS

DEAR CRAVING: It's possible that when you had the surgery your daughter was afraid she would lose you, and now she's having separation anxieties of her own. It's time for a frank talk with her.

It's unusual for a bride to have so much free time on her hands. She should be using at least some of it to build a life of her own. Could there be a problem in her marriage? Her husband can't be thrilled that she's spending so much time at your place. Or does she lack direction?

What's going on isn't healthy for either of you. So speak up and establish some ground rules. If you prefer that she visit only once a week, say so. Your daughter needs to "get a life," and you are entitled to one apart from her.

DEAR ABBY: I had a bad cold a few weeks ago, and while waiting in my doctor's office, I occupied myself by reading one of the many magazines he keeps there for patients. It occurred to me later that the magazine I had been holding had also been handled by countless other sick patients during the weeks it had laid there.

Couldn't those magazines be carriers of innumerable germs that could infect visiting patients? Is it possible that providing reading material in hospitals or doctors' waiting rooms could actually be an unhealthy practice? -- GERM THEORIST IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR GERM THEORIST: Yes, I think so. And the door handles, elevator buttons, chart clipboard and pens could also be loaded with germs. That's why it's a good idea to always carry disinfectant gel or wipes with you.

P.S. If a valet takes your car or the keys -- or hands you change ... oh, Lord, I'm beginning to sound like Howard Hughes.

DEAR ABBY: What is the proper title for your mother's third husband? I have looked everywhere and can't find an answer. I know that her second husband is my stepfather, but I am curious what the third one is called. -- NAME DROPPER IN ALABAMA

DEAR NAME DROPPER: Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines the "stepfather" as "the husband of one's mother when distinct from one's natural or legal father." He could also be referred to as your mother's husband, or simply by his given name.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)