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DEAR ABBY: I am a 72-year-old divorcee. I live alone in a 55-and-older community where I have many friends and an active life.

My three adult children are ages 37 to 43. The eldest lives out of the country with my 12-year-old grandson. My other son and his wife live 2,000 miles away and have two young children, one of whom I saw once three years ago. My daughter lives with her husband an hour and a half away. I see them about twice a year.

My daughter will sometimes answer an email or text, sometimes not. My sons almost never contact me, not even on my birthday or Mother's Day. From what I understand, they have little communication with their father or each other, either.

Is this normal? It breaks my heart. This isn't how I raised them. I always encouraged them to maintain a relationship with their father and their grandmother. Is there anything I can do? -- SO SAD IN THE EAST

DEAR SO SAD: I'm sorry for your heartache, and there IS something you can do. Concentrate on your friends, people who are willing to return your emotional investment. You should also ignore Mother's Day, which is an emotionally loaded holiday that causes pain not only to mothers like you, but also to those who have recently lost their mothers. I think you have suffered enough, don't you?


DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, "Gladys," has never liked to shop from a gift list. She prefers to look on her own for a gift she thinks the person would like. My problem is, most of the things she buys are atrocious.

My husband and I are expecting our first child -- her first grandchild -- and although we sent her the link, she has already purchased items not on our registry. I am gracious, Abby. I thank her verbally and follow up with a note in the mail. However, we don't have enough room for all the items to use just when she visits, so I plan to quietly return or donate them.

When she's here and asks why we're not using her gifts, what do I say? I'd prefer not to lie and say something like "the dog chewed it up," nor do I want to be brutally honest and tell her I found the things she bought too ugly. -- MOM-IN-WAITING

DEAR MOM-IN-WAITING: Find a wide, shallow box that will fit under a bed. Select some of the "atrocious" gifts and use them when Grandma Gladys comes to visit. If she asks why you're not using all of them, explain that because you already had some of the gifts she sent, you donated hers to a needy family who could enjoy them. (It's a diplomatic version of the truth.)


DEAR ABBY: I'm a single woman in my 30s, not a Mrs. and too young for Ma'am. Am I a Ms.? What do they all stand for? -- IN BETWEEN M'S

DEAR IN BETWEEN: You qualify for "Ms.," if you wish to use it. As you know, "Miss" is the term used to denote an unmarried woman. After consciousness was raised regarding equal rights for women, some began using "Ms." in the workplace when they preferred not to reveal their marital status. Traditionally, in the South, women over 21 are called "Ma'am" as a sign of respect. Farther north it's applied to mature women, although not all of them appreciate hearing it directed at them.

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