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Dear Abby: Widowed mother's outbursts suggest something's seriously wrong

DEAR ABBY: My dad died four years ago. He and Mom had many friends and did everything together, including raising nine children.


My dad died four years ago. He and Mom had many friends and did everything together, including raising nine children.

Mom was always in charge of things. Dad reinforced any decisions she made and vice versa. Since his death, Mom has become progressively more bitter. Eight children are alive today, and we all avoid her if we can. She cries because no one stops by to see her, but if we do, she has a long chore list waiting. I have my own home, work two jobs and don't want what little time I have with her spent working as her slave.

If by chance I feel brave enough to take her out in public, she embarrasses me with her verbal outbursts.

She waits until I start to pay, then asks loudly, "Are you sure you have enough money in the bank to pay for that?" Another time, she stopped a complete stranger, told him I was single and asked if he wanted to know my bra size!

I have tried talking to her. She just gets mad and makes my life even more miserable.

Mom will be 70 in a few months. I want to enjoy her and what time we have left together, but I find myself running away from her wrath! I don't want to live without her, but I don't want to live with her, either. Please tell me what to do.

- Driven Away in Georgia

DEAR DRIVEN AWAY: Was your mother always this way? If not, please understand that she may be seriously ill. You have described some symptoms of the onset of dementia. Instead of shunning her, you and your siblings need to encourage her to see her doctor because she needs a thorough physical and neurological examination.

Offering you to a strange man was extremely inappropriate, and her chore list may indicate that she's no longer able to do what's on it for herself.

Your mother needs all of you right now. Go with her to the doctor, and be sure her physician knows what's been going on. It may take insistence from all of you to get her there. Please don't let her down. You have my sympathy and so does she.

DEAR ABBY: I am a single dad of three kids. For the past three years I have promised to take them to Disney World.

The first year, my youngest got sick and had to have surgery. The following year, I had a stroke and was laid up for a while. This year, as I was on my way to get the tickets, my car broke down.

I work so hard to give my kids what they need, but I can't give them a vacation they can remember for the rest of their lives. I feel like I have let them down. How can I make this feeling go away?

- No Magic for Us in Ohio

DEAR NO MAGIC: For one thing, stop beating yourself up over circumstances that are beyond your control. As a single parent, you are giving your children love, support and memories of a caring father that will last a lifetime.

You'll take them to Disney World at a time when it is feasible. Until then, forgive yourself for not having been able to deliver on your promise immediately.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self- addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Teen Booklet, Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)