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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My problem is the relationship I have with my brother. We're both in our 40s and married. Over the last few years our relationship has deteriorated.

We live in different states, and I see him once a year when I visit Mom. I call him in between, but he never returns my calls. When we do get together, he makes it clear that he'd rather be somewhere else. It makes me sad because we have a small family and I'd like to be closer -- like we were in the past.

Mom is in her 80s and lives alone in the house we grew up in. She has lived by herself for more than 20 years. Although she's very active, the house has become a burden. She and I have talked about selling it and her moving to a senior residence close to me. She is thrilled with the idea.

I am afraid my brother will make a fuss and try to discourage the process, since Mom would be moving out of state. I'll be going to visit Mom soon to help with some jobs around the house. How do I get through to my brother that this would be a progressive move for Mom? -- SENSIBLE SIBLING IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SENSIBLE SIB: You're behaving as if the decision is yours and your brother's to make. If your mother is "thrilled" with the idea of being closer to you, it's possible that your brother and his wife are less involved in her life than you think. When you go to visit and your brother comes by acting as if he'd rather be elsewhere, start a family discussion on the subject and don't let him hijack it. Your mother's wishes should prevail.

P.S. I don't know whether you and your brother will be able to re-establish the closeness you once had or the reason you drifted apart. But a mediator might be able to help if you both are willing.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old married woman in Canada. I moved from the United States to be with my husband when I was 19. People seem to react negatively because we married at such a young age. I am often asked, "What do your parents think about that?"

Abby, my mother died when I was 17 and I have had little contact with my father since I was 12 because he was abusive. I was fortunate that my grandmother took me in. She loves my husband and has no problem with my marriage as she knows I am wise beyond my years because of my past.

How can I respond to these strangers -- first about their negative reaction to my having married so young, and second, to their questions about my parents? I don't like telling strangers about my mother's passing away because it is still painful after all these years. -- NO PARENTS IN CALGARY

DEAR NO PARENTS: Ah, the thoughtless questions people come up with about things that are none of their business! You do not have to give a stranger chapter and verse about your family history. Just smile, say, "I was raised by my grandmother, and she didn't have a problem with it," then change the subject immediately by asking the person a question about her- or himself.

DEAR ABBY: When riding in a car, who gets to select the radio station? Is it the driver/owner of the vehicle or the passenger? -- LIKES TO LISTEN IN FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR LIKES TO LISTEN: Usually it's the driver or owner. However, if you would like to listen to a station other than the one that's on, politely ask if you can change the station and the driver/owner may accommodate you.

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