DEAR ABBY: My mother is suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like dementia, and her personality has changed greatly. Mother has gone from being a conscientious and polite woman – most of my high school friends called her “June Cleaver” – to losing the checks and balances that prevent her from saying whatever comes to mind.

Specifically, my mother can be very unpredictable in restaurants. She has, several times, while the hostess has been walking up to the table, demanded in a loud voice that they “turn off the damn music!” No matter what we say to her, she does not understand that this behavior isn’t acceptable. What can we say to people in a situation like this that doesn’t denigrate my mother, but will help them understand the situation? – TORN IN FRAMINGHAM, MASS.

DEAR TORN: I know this situation is painful, and you have my sympathy. You should quietly inform the host or hostess of the truth, that your mother was not always like this, but is suffering from dementia. That’s not “denigrating.” It is the truth. That way, they won’t assume that your mother is rude and demanding; they will understand that she is not responsible for what she’s saying.

DEAR ABBY: My wife passed away a little more than a year ago from cancer, so now I am a widower. My question concerns how I should refer to my wife in conversation. I don’t want to say “my dead wife.” It seems a bit insensitive or maybe a little off-putting.

I was recently on an airplane going back east to visit my former brother- and sister-in-law. During the flight, I got into a wonderful conversation with one of the flight attendants. She seemed really interested in me – until I told her the reason for my trip. Then it was like an invisible barrier went down between us. The minute I mentioned my wife had died, the “connection” was over. Can you help me? – DANNY IN PHOENIX

DEAR DANNY: I don’t know what caused the flight attendant to back off from what seemed like a promising beginning, but it’s possible that she wasn’t as interested in pursuing a relationship as you assumed. Had she been interested, mentioning that you are widowed would have been the signal that made her forge ahead. In the future, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention the fact that your wife passed away. It means you’re eligible. Simply refer to her as your deceased wife.

DEAR ABBY: We recently moved and would like to meet more of our new neighbors by inviting them for wine and cheese.

However, many of the nearby residents are young parents with small children, and I do not relish merlot and brie spilled onto our new, white carpets by visiting toddlers who may be into rough-and-tumble games.

Can you suggest a firm but polite way to say, “Please come, but leave the kids at home”? Help! – FLORIDA READER

DEAR READER: Allow me to offer some suggestions. First, schedule the party from 8 to 9 p.m., which will better the chances that it will be past the little ones’ bedtime. Second, when you invite these neighbors, state that alcohol will be served and the party is for adults only. And last, just in case some of your guests show up with children in tow anyway (it does happen), skip the merlot and serve white wine.

DEAR READERS: From the bottom of my heart, I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2006. And please, if you’re driving tonight, don’t drink; and if you’re drinking tonight, don’t drive. Stay safe, everyone!

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 P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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