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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm 25 and live in my mother's basement apartment with my boyfriend. We would like to be married soon, now that we're out of school and have stable careers. But I insist that we move out of Mom's house before making any permanent plans.

The problem is my mom, who is divorced, is unemployed and a social phobic, with few friends. We provide her with financial support by paying several hundred dollars a month in rent, in addition to other bills. She helps me with a loan when the rare emergency arises.

Every time I mention moving out, she becomes angry with me. She cries that she'll be left alone with no money -- and it makes me feel so guilty I relent. I have no idea what to do. My older sister, who is married with two children, might be able to help me out, but we have never been close and I'm reluctant to ask for her advice. Please help, Abby. -- MAMA'S GIRL IN ROSWELL, GA.

DEAR MAMA'S GIRL: You are not the solution to your mother's problems. The time has come for you to spread your wings and fly the nest. Before you leave, be sure the apartment is in the freshest condition possible so it can be rented and your mother will have some income. She will probably need professional help to overcome her ingrained social insecurities -- so encourage her to get it. (Some licensed psychotherapists specialize in phobic disorders.) It will change her life -- and yours -- for the better.

DEAR ABBY: If a girl ever needed advice, it's me. My father walked out 20 years ago, leaving four children and a disabled wife. He just vanished. We grew up and I searched for him. Because of the power of the Internet, I was contacted by his family, and Dad was found. He had reunited with his sister, who updated me.

Now I'm faced with the dilemma of how to speak to him for the first time since I was in diapers, and I am angry. My aunt advises me not to ask for answers to questions like "why" because I may not get them. Of the things he did say to her, not once did he express remorse.

I guess what I'm asking is how to talk to this stranger who altered my life. Most of what I have are questions. How am I not entitled to answers? Abby, this has been a long search and now that I have succeeded, I don't know what to do. -- STRESSED IN TEXAS

DEAR STRESSED: Your anger is justified. Unless he was locked in a mental ward, a man who would leave a disabled wife and four small children and "just vanish" is someone with no concern for anyone other than himself. Approach him with the same caution you would any other stranger, because that's what he is. Because this is stressful, list your questions in advance so you won't forget any. But I'm warning you: Do not allow him to make you feel sorry for him.

DEAR ABBY: Last night while walking my dog I noticed the lights in my neighbor's car had been left on. It was after midnight and his house was dark. I am not particularly close to this neighbor, although we acknowledge each other in passing. I rang his doorbell, but he didn't answer. The next morning as I left for work I saw the lights in his car were still on.

What is appropriate in this situation, Abby? Would people want to be told, or is it better to let them sleep? -- CARING NEIGHBOR, BOULDER, COLO.

DEAR NEIGHBOR: I can't speak for everyone, but I know I would much prefer to have someone ring my bell and tell me I forgot to turn off the lights than have to deal with a dead battery in the morning.

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