DEAR ABBY: Thirty years ago, a friend of my husband's roommate passed away of AIDS and was cremated. His family had ostracized him. I have no idea who they are or where they are. The roommate left and later died, also from AIDS. He left his friend's ashes in his old room in my husband's house in the San Francisco Bay area with instructions to scatter them in Hawaii.
The ashes have been sitting reverently in a cardboard box on a shelf in our several homes for all these 30 years. We are still together, but getting old. There is no paperwork of any kind. All we know about the deceased is his name and the fact that he was a friend.
Before I die, I would like to resolve this problem and arrange for the ashes to have a permanent resting place, preferably in Hawaii. I have a nephew who lives on the Big Island, where the scattering should take place. How should I proceed, in light of the no paperwork problem? -- MIKE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR MIKE: I applaud your caring heart and your determination to carry out this man's last wishes. I took your question to Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, and this is what he told me:
"There is no impediment to your taking the ashes and placing them where you wish since there are no relatives who have an interest in them. If you plan to carry them on an airplane, be sure to have them in a scannable container -- nothing metal or such heavy earthenware that an X-ray scanner would be prevented from seeing inside. There is no requirement that you carry a death certificate, or any other certificate, with you. You do not need 'papers' to walk around with an urn or to travel with one.
"As far as scattering goes, people scatter ashes all the time. Cremated remains are sterile calcium and no threat at all to the environment. While public lands usually discourage, or prohibit by rule, scattering of ashes, it is common practice that cannot be stopped. Use discretion and care -- there is no such thing as 'ashes police.'"
DEAR ABBY: I am older and on a fixed income. At times I still date, and I'm not sure how to handle this. After one or two dinners out or glasses of wine, etc., I feel my dates are waiting for me to treat them, and I can't afford it. I don't know how to explain that I don't have enough money to do that.
I'm a very giving person, and I would love to make them dinner if I knew them better. One time I brought someone a huge amount of beautiful organic vegetables, but that wasn't enough. He was really upset I didn't buy him wine on one of the dates. What to do? -- REALLY WISH I COULD
DEAR REALLY WISH: The person who was really upset that you didn't buy him wine on one of those dates should have been told that you are on a fixed income and it wasn't within your budget. You should also have told him you were reciprocating within your ability. If he needed a drink that badly, he could have paid for his own. You're lucky to be rid of him.
In the future, TELL the man you are seeing that after you know him better, you would love to treat him to some home-cooked meals, which might actually be nicer than what you can afford to buy him in a restaurant. He might appreciate both your candor and the food. If he doesn't, I think you will be lucky to be rid of him, too.
P.S. Have you considered paying the tab for a casual breakfast, lunch or a coffee/pastry date instead of dinner?
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have had the same roommate, "Milo," for four years. Two years ago, he started dating my husband's ex-girlfriend. It was no big deal, my husband was fine with it, and Milo never brings her over. In the time they've been seeing each other Milo has refused to fully commit to her. He doesn't see other people, but he doesn't call her his girlfriend.
Today my husband told me Milo won't commit to her because he thinks it would bother me if she were around our house all the time. He's right. It would. I'm not in love with the idea of my husband's drop-dead gorgeous ex hanging out at our house.
Abby, I see in her everything I'm not. Am I being selfish? I want our roommate to be happy, and I'm not sure how to proceed. Must I just suck it up? I mean, I'm married for heaven's sake. -- SELFISH ROOMMATE
DEAR ROOMMATE: I don't think you should acquiesce to anything that makes you uncomfortable. You're making a mistake by assuming responsibility for the fact that Milo won't commit. He's a grown man and responsible for his own choices. The current arrangement is working for all of you, and you should stay out of it.
DEAR ABBY: What do you think of barbers or beauticians who take phone calls and continue to talk to the callers while doing a client's hair? I haven't said anything because I don't want an angry person cutting my hair. It's almost like having a doctor talk on the phone while doing surgery. What do you think? -- HAIR-RAISING IN ILLINOIS
DEAR HAIR-RAISING: A short conversation to book an appointment is one thing, but what you have described is just plain rude. The first time the beautician did it you should have spoken up. Because you didn't, she/he thinks you don't mind.
Hairdressing is a service business, and the client in the chair should take priority. If you are really afraid your stylist would butcher your haircut in retaliation if you complain (talk about passive aggressive!), find someone else to provide this service.
DEAR ABBY: I have been a widow for three years. Sixteen years ago, my husband and I built a modest -- but nice -- home and worked very hard to pay off the mortgage early. I am constantly asked if I am going to stay in my home or if I plan to sell it. I have no intention of moving at this time or in the near future, if at all. Is there a good answer to give people when they keep asking this question? Do they think I am not capable of living in a house by myself? Any suggestions will be appreciated. -- HAPPY AT HOME
DEAR HAPPY: When someone asks that question, rather than become defensive, say, "Why do you ask?" Then let the person explain the reason behind it. Instead of implying that you are no longer capable of living alone, the questioner may be considering making an offer to buy it from you.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for 35 years. For the last seven years, we have been separated. He treated me badly, and finally, I refused to take it, so I left him. I moved out, bought a car and bought a home, all on my own. I'm proud of myself.
We have tried marriage counseling, but I felt like we were just going through the motions. He has pressured me in the past about getting back together, but I know he will go right back to his old behavior.
My question is, when is it time to get a divorce? I'm confused about just being separated because it makes me feel I'm in limbo. -- IN-BETWEEN IN COLORADO
DEAR IN-BETWEEN: You ARE in limbo. You tried marriage counseling; it didn't help you trust that your husband wouldn't continue to abuse you. Call a lawyer. After seven years (!) of separation, the time to formally untie the knot is now.
DEAR ABBY: I have been trying to deal with this on my own for a long time. I have been "crushing" on a man of my faith for a couple of years, and it never seems to subside. We are both married to others, seemingly happily. I like his wife very much, and I would never want to hurt her.
I think he is a wonderful human being, and he has said as much to me. We would never entertain the idea of an affair. From my standpoint, I don't know what to do. Do you have any suggestions? I try to give my own husband lots of love. -- TORN BETWEEN TWO IN MONTANA
DEAR TORN: Do nothing about this crush. Continue giving your husband lots of love, attention and appreciation. Crushes are normal. Sometimes they serve as reminders that we are still alive. As long as they remain "unfertilized romances," they harm no one. You have a mutual admiration society because you both deserve it and have nothing to feel guilty about.
DEAR ABBY: Is there any way to stop charities from sending all of this "free stuff"? When I donate to charity, I intend for my contribution to be used to help someone in need. Instead, I am subjected to all kinds of things in my mailbox. I have received money, postage stamps, greeting cards, notepads and enough mailing labels to far outlast me!
I have now decided that any charity that sends me merchandise or any other "freebie" will be taken off my donation list. I hate to write bona fide charities off my list, but it has become ridiculous. -- WASTEFUL IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WASTEFUL: You are not the only person to complain about this. I receive many letters from equally frustrated readers about it.
Before donating to any charity, go online and check out charitynavigator.org. If you do, it will give you insight into where your money goes -- including how much of their revenue is spent on salaries and "overhead." Just because you receive notepads, mailing labels and calendars does NOT mean you are obligated to send money. Please remember that.
DEAR ABBY: At 18, I married my high school sweetheart. After 20 years of marriage and four wonderful children, my husband decided the grass was greener elsewhere, and we divorced. He paid no attention to my children or my grandchildren when they were young.
He has since remarried, has a child with his current wife and acts like he's Father of the Year. Last weekend one of my grandchildren got married. My blowhard of an ex brought a picture of himself, my son, my grandson and my great-granddaughter saying he'd had this picture taken of four generations of the family. He never mentioned that if it hadn't been for ME giving birth to our children, none of them would have even been there.
Am I overly sensitive to feel like a second-class citizen when we attend a family function? Must I continue to say nothing, or speak up? How do others handle this situation? -- CLUELESS IN THE EAST
DEAR CLUELESS: They handle it by choosing their battles carefully. I think it's important that you ask yourself why anything your ex says would make you feel like a second-class citizen. He appears to have moved on with his life more quickly than you have moved on with yours. Concentrate your efforts on expanding your horizons -- your interests and friendships -- and you will find anything he might say will be far less important to you. Trust me on that.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a public school teacher with a word of advice to parents who wonder why their children misbehave, argue with them and act out with attention-getting behaviors: PUT DOWN YOUR CELLPHONES AND PAY ATTENTION TO THEM!
I just finished a parent-teacher conference with a mother whose children argue, pout and scream when she tells them to do something at home. Her children are not disabled, nor do they demonstrate these behaviors in my classroom. Abby, during the entire meeting, that woman texted on her phone. How rude!
The next time I meet with someone who pulls that, I'll ask if she (or he) would like to suspend the meeting until their pressing business (pun intended) is finished. Maybe the parent needs to be embarrassed in order to realize how inappropriate texting or talking on the phone is when she (or he) is face-to-face with another person unless the other person says it's OK. -- HAS TO VENT
DEAR VENT: Vent away. I agree that what the mother did was disrespectful. It prevented you from effectively giving her information about her child that she needed to know.
As great a benefit as technology has been to society, it appears to also be a double-edged sword. By that I mean, while it fosters communication, it has kept parents from bonding with their toddlers and young people from learning to effectively communicate with each other face-to-face. The ultimate result of this is yet to be determined, but I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of people finding a balance so they can form healthy relationships. I hope your letter will serve as a wake-up call to someone who needs a reminder.
DEAR ABBY: My 40-year-old son has been in a volatile on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who has physically and emotionally abused him repeatedly. He's an Iraq War veteran with issues of his own, including a previous marriage and messy divorce from a narcissistic woman. They share custody of two grade school-age children. The current woman has grown children, plus a pre-teen boy (with issues also). The last time they split up, my husband made it clear that she would never be welcome in our home again because of her violent temper. We don't condone that behavior.
Our son has now decided he thinks he "loves her." He wants us to give our blessing, including having her in our home and being one big happy family. We are sure this "reunion" will come with her assurances that she has changed, and it will never happen again.
Abby, we want our son to be happy, but we recognize that a leopard doesn't change her spots. We also don't want our young grandchildren in a toxic environment again. What should we do? Please don't tell me he needs to go to counseling because he says he is. Help! -- SEEING CLEARLY IN NEW YORK
DEAR SEEING: When you stated that your son is asking you for your blessing, including having this woman in your home and being one big happy family, did he mean LIVING there with you? If that's not the case, you can bless it, but your answer should be no if it means they will live under your roof. It would be healthier for all of you if they have living arrangements of their own. That way, you can see her only when she is on her good behavior, and if she backslides, the drama won't be in your home. The added bonus is that your son will have a refuge if he needs it. (I'd give anything to know how his therapist views this.)
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been together for 30 years, married for 20. We have two sons living at home, a 20-year-old who works full-time and a 17-year-old who is graduating from high school in the spring.
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I have been offered a transfer to Australia by my employer -- a transfer I had asked for. When we discussed it in the past, everyone was all for it. My oldest can likely stay with the multinational hotel chain he works for now, and I can get my youngest a decent career in my field of work as there is a tremendous shortage of skilled labor in Australia.
Now my wife tells me she can't leave her family, especially her father, who has Parkinson's. I have told her she can expect to return every summer to our condo on the beach and an additional two trips per year.
Abby, I thought our vows meant we would be together forever, wherever. My employer will soon begin the process of opening the Australian office, a process I will be part of and likely train the new hire. I am bitter and resentful toward my wife, and it is affecting my attitude toward her. I love her, but I am struggling to get over the fact she is denying me a very lucrative opportunity. Advice? -- LOSING OUT IN CANADA
DEAR LOSING OUT: It's time for you and your wife to put your heads together and work out a solution. By that I mean you should accept the lucrative business opportunity you have been offered, AND your wife can take care of her father as long as she needs to. Unless his condition is critical, she can visit you and your sons periodically so it shouldn't put too much strain on your marriage. I hope you will consider it because the kind of resentment you are feeling now can destroy a marriage.
DEAR ABBY: I moved in with my boyfriend, "Greg," three years ago into the tiny but very economical house he rents. It's cheaper than all other rentals in our area and allows us to save for a home of our own one day. However, after many months, I have discovered to my dismay that our landlord is the mother of his ex-girlfriend. And the ex is acting manager of the property we live on! This means that, for as long as I've lived here, Greg's ex and her mom have been in frequent contact with him and are an inescapable part of our lives.
Greg gets along fine with them and doesn't want to move because of high rents elsewhere, but I'm very uncomfortable with the awkwardness of our living situation. Am I being too sensitive, or should my boyfriend never have lived there in the first place? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Now, now ... let's keep our eye on the goal line. Your boyfriend's objective (and yours) is to save enough money to eventually own a place of your own. His ex and her mother are a means to an end. It would be a big mistake not to recognize that they could be charging far more for your lodgings. Concentrate on that and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
DEAR ABBY: I recently hosted a large family for a week in our home. On our last day together, the mother asked if she could run "a quick load" of laundry. I said OK, figuring she might be running low on unmentionables.
Abby, she did FIVE large loads of laundry and spent half of our last day together folding everything up and packing their bags for home. I wouldn't deny anyone a quick load, but I think she took advantage of me. I was very disappointed that our last day together was wasted doing laundry. Is this a "thing" now? Your thoughts, please. -- HUNG OUT TO DRY IN ARIZONA
DEAR HUNG OUT: You were trying to be helpful, and the woman did take advantage of your generosity by mischaracterizing her intentions. If, however, you had other plans for the last morning of the visit, when you saw her start her second (or third) load, you should have spoken up and drawn the line.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a 14-year marriage, but there has always been another woman, "Emily," I have thought about almost daily the whole time. My wife and I have just turned 40. We have no kids, but we have a dog. I always thought I would want kids, and we tried half-heartedly, but there is no real intimacy to this day. I kiss her goodbye in the morning and, for years, that's been it.
Emily is all in on a relationship with me still to this day. We had a great relationship with great sex, and I miss all of that. I'm struggling about the right thing to do, partly because I know the pain this will cause.
My wife and I still have good times together with friends, but when we're home, it's like we're just best friends with no benefits. One of the last times we had sex, she ended it abruptly. The flame I felt for her is gone. I feel like I should go the other direction because she wants kids and still loves me deeply after all these years. Please advise. -- WRESTLING WITH IT IN WISCONSIN
DEAR WRESTLING: Clearly you have never stopped talking to Emily. Quit "wrestling" and talk with your WIFE. She may have ended your last sexual encounter because it was physically painful or because she no longer feels emotionally connected to you.
The person who can help you determine what to do next is the woman to whom you are married. Whether this marriage is salvageable is debatable, but this I do know: A healthy marriage takes TWO committed individuals, and in this case, one of them (you) has been missing in action.
DEAR ABBY: I am an older woman who finally got fed up with my husband's cellphone addiction. Since he would no longer speak to me but spent all his time scrolling on his device, I went out and bought a realistic-looking baby doll. When he pulled out his cell, I pulled out my doll. I talked to it, fiddled with its buttons and carried it everywhere. He finally yelled at me, "It's not real!" to which I replied, "It's real; it's just not alive. LIKE YOUR CELLPHONE."
This final scene was played out in the dining room of our country club, which was filled with members. The phone and "baby" stayed in the car after that. We laugh about it now, and she's resting comfortably in her carrier, just in case she's ever needed again. -- THOUGHT I'D SHARE THIS
DEAR THOUGHT: I hesitate to endorse implied threats in marital disagreements, but your solution worked -- brilliantly. So who am I to argue with success? Congratulations!
DEAR ABBY: What is your opinion about elderly parents who no longer drive having to pay their children to drive them to appointments, grocery, etc.? Think of all the times parents drove them when they were growing up. -- RETURNING THE FAVOR
DEAR RETURNING THE FAVOR: Most adult children with a memory would never dream of asking to be paid for driving their elderly parents. A child who would do this must be desperate for money. In my opinion, because they are paying for it anyway, the parents should make other arrangements for transportation.
DEAR ABBY: My husband loaned a "dear friend" some money a year ago. She has yet to pay back a penny. When I ask him about it, he gets mad and tells me it's none of my business. I have hinted to her about some large bills that we have to pay, to no avail.
Other than that, my husband and I have a great marriage and love each other very much. I just don't like her taking advantage of his generosity. I know taking care of his friends gives him pleasure, but he has been burned before and I can see it happening again. I find it hard to ignore. What do I do? -- SICK OF IT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR SICK OF IT: I wish you had mentioned whether you work and the money your soft-touch hubby gave his friend was partly earned by you. If that's the case, I don't blame you for being upset.
While I'm not sure you can prevent your husband from doing this, I do think you are within your rights to insist that before he does it he discuss it with you. If he will do that, perhaps the two of you can find an alternative for the person other than giving out money.
DEAR ABBY: My son passed away unexpectedly a little over eight years ago. He was 21. At the time, he had been dating a very nice young lady. We kept in touch for a while after the funeral -- letters and emails mostly, as I had moved out of state -- but things gradually tapered off.
I have been able to keep somewhat informed about her life because of the magic of social media and mutual friends she shared with my son who still contact me occasionally. I recently learned she's being married within the next two weeks. I am wondering if it would be wrong or weird of me to send a congratulatory card to the happy couple. I wish only continued happiness for her and her future husband. -- WISHING HAPPINESS
DEAR WISHING: I see nothing wrong or weird about sending her a nice card, and when you do, be sure to tell her not only that you wish her a happy future, but also that she will always have a special place in your heart.
DEAR ABBY: Would it be appropriate for someone to tell someone else's children to stop doing something dangerous if the parent is not around? I'm talking about kids holding scissors the wrong way or running with them, pushing others, etc.
My children are in their teens now and know that such behavior is wrong. If it were the other way around, I would be grateful if someone cared enough to tell my kids that a behavior is wrong and/or dangerous. -- GLAD IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR GLAD: How else would the children know if they weren't warned? To speak up would be an act of kindness, particularly if they were doing something that could cause harm to themselves or others.
DEAR ABBY: What is the etiquette when eating at a restaurant where a piano player is performing? I don't mean the "bar scene"-type piano player who wants the crowd to sing along, but more of a mid- to upscale type of place.
There's a restaurant like this in my town -- the only one with a piano. On one special occasion when we were there, the piano player was playing "Misty" and a woman sitting nearby with her party wanted to make herself heard over him. She began talking very loudly to her group while he was playing the song. I thought it was tacky, and if I had been sitting near her, I would have shushed her up.
Isn't it polite to wait until the piano player is finished before talking loudly at your table? Whatever happened to behaving with a little class in restaurants? -- DEANNA IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR DEANNA: The musician in that restaurant was there to provide mood music for the diners. If they chose to talk while he was playing, it was their privilege. The woman may have raised her voice because someone in her party had a hearing problem. For you to have taken it upon yourself to "shush her up" would have been rude, and for your sake, I'm glad you refrained from doing it.
DEAR ABBY: Am I overreacting to my husband's request that I take down photos of my mom and grandparents when his mom visits? They are displayed in our guest bedroom. I think his request was rude. I wonder if his mother even cares or if he just feels guilty. It's my house, too. -- RELUCTANT IN TEXAS
DEAR RELUCTANT: Rather than remove your family photos, why not compromise by adding a couple of pictures of your husband's mother, too? I'm sure she would be pleased to see them. Problem solved.
DEAR ABBY: I have a crush on a guy I work with. I'm 19, and he's 26. He has a kid, which actually doesn't bother me. I love kids and have taken care of them most of my life. My problem is he has this ex who wants to get back together with him. They broke up because she was staying out all night and cheating.
He used to flirt with me and text me all the time and offer me his hoodie. Now she's sort of back in the picture and he ignores me and doesn't return my texts. But when we see each other he starts flirting again, and we just click. We make sense.
I guess my question is, should I tell him how I feel before it's too late or just keep it to myself? Should I risk everything and go for it? -- UNCERTAIN IN NEW YORK
DEAR UNCERTAIN: Announce your feelings for the guy if you wish, but do not expect him to drop everything and rush to you. If he were interested in more than a workplace flirtation, he would be paying the same kind of attention to you that he did before. Because he isn't, you need to understand that he and his ex obviously have some unfinished business together, regardless of her history of infidelity. Set your sights on someone else.
DEAR ABBY: All my mom does is talk about work. If we are having a conversation, she links every topic to her work and her co-workers. It is alienating my sister and me. When we tell her things about our kids -- her grandkids -- she still relates it to work.
Another thing: She's constantly on her tablet for work or on Facebook. I live seven hours away from her. When we make the drive down, I don't want to watch her on her tablet. If we try to confront her on anything, all she does is cry.
Mom and I had a good relationship before she took that job. Now she's so negative that it's difficult to want to talk to her. Where do I even start? -- MISSING HER WHILE SHE'S HERE
DEAR MISSING: Rather than "confront" your mother, ask her what may have changed in her life since she took that job. Her focus may have shifted because that's the center of her activity. Conversations are two-way, and this may be all she feels she has to contribute on her end. As to her "hiding" behind Facebook rather than carry on a conversation with you, like many people, she may have become addicted to it and unable to tear herself away. However, you will never know unless you ask her calmly.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069