DEAR ABBY: My mom has never been what you would call a housekeeper. Dad did all the shopping, cooking and cleaning. As a child, I remember our house always being a mess. Mom worked, and I don't know why she never felt like she needed to clean up after herself. My dad would straighten up after her, and there were often arguments about it.
Fast forward. Dad passed away three years ago, and my mom hasn't changed. She leaves things all over the house like she did before -- dishes, bowls, soda cans, shoes. The first year, I would go over and clean only to return a couple of days later and find the place a mess again. She won't let cleaning people in because she "doesn't like the smell of the cleaning products."
I feel like a bad daughter because at this point, I won't go over to her house anymore. I cannot spend time there. If this were new behavior, I would be concerned, but it's been this way as long as I can remember. She seems to not care that the place is a mess all the time. I feel bad for not helping her anymore. My daughter won't visit her either. What do I do? -- MIFFED ABOUT THE MESS IN VIRGINIA
DEAR MIFFED: Don't feel guilty. Because your mother is the way she is and always has been like this, take her out or to your home when you want to visit with her.
DEAR ABBY: I found out a few years ago that the first love of my life, my college sweetheart, was murdered by her husband in 1999. At the time, I was married. My wife died three years ago, and I now live with a significant other.
I never got closure. Now that I know about my girlfriend's brutal death, I have thought about contacting her family, who live in another state. Would it be all right to do that, or am I just reliving my past and need to move on? I am torn about what to do. What do you suggest? -- CONFLICTED IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR CONFLICTED: Write her parents a letter and tell them you only recently heard about your former girlfriend's death. And when you do, express to them that she will always live in your heart, and share a pleasant memory of her with them. I'm sure they will be appreciative.
DEAR ABBY: It's time someone publicized this. Chewing ice in your tea, coffee or soft drink is as rude as eating your food or cracking your gum with your mouth open.
As I write this, I am sitting in a nice neighborhood coffee shop. The man next to me ordered an iced beverage, which he has been chomping through for the last 10 minutes. This is rude under any conditions, but magnified by the fact that some of us are going over work matters and trying to enjoy a coffee and muffin break. Moreover, it is not good for teeth. Even if the ice crunching habit were benign with regard to health, it's inconsiderate of those in earshot. -- BREAKING THE ICE
DEAR BREAKING: Has it occurred to you and your co-workers to move to another table if the crunching annoys you? If it hasn't, I recommend it.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)