DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been going round and round about nursing homes. My father's illness and memory loss have brought us face-to-face with the issue. This dilemma is not for those families who can afford to pay for someone to care for a patient in his or her own home. Nor does it apply to those who can afford an assisted-living facility.

When is it the "best-case scenario" for someone's continued care to be provided by a nursing home? Or should the parent be allowed to remain at home despite the consequences? Is it more compassionate to prolong his or her life in an environment that he or she would never have chosen or agreed to, or is it irresponsible to honor his or her wishes to live alone, with limited assistance, even though it may lead to an early death?

My father's care is far too complex and time-consuming for me or any other family member to take on in our own homes.

Your advice would be welcomed in making this complicated and emotional decision.

"" DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN ILLINOIS

DEAR DAUGHTER: The decision you're facing is a wrenching one, and you have my sympathy. The question you must answer is, is your parent aware enough of his surroundings that he even knows where he is?

Has he reached the point that he could wander and be unable to find his way home? Is he getting enough to eat? Can he bathe himself, or does he need assistance with hygiene and dressing? Is there family close enough to check on him in case he falls? If there was a fire, would he know what to do?

These are scenarios in which your father should not be living alone. If he has become so demented that he is a danger to himself, then sad as it may be, you must listen to your conscience and understand that past promises no longer apply.

DEAR ABBY: After giving my wife of 10 years a divorce at her request, she continues to contact me. She'll call about little things like what color to paint the house, things that are going on at work, or who she went dancing with. Why is she doing this?

"" ALREADY MOVED ON

DEAR ALREADY MOVED ON: Because on some level, although she requested the divorce, she's unable to completely let go. Or, she fantasizes that you're actually interested in the things she's talking about. If her calls are an imposition, why don't you tell her so and put an end to the conversation?

DEAR ABBY: I'm a male, in my second year of high school. I'm interested in joining a club at school called the Gay Straight Alliance. The purpose of this club is to end prejudice against gays, lesbians and bisexual people. The club tries to show the community that gays are people, too, and that they don't deserve to be ridiculed and disrespected.

My parents oppose my wanting to join. They told me that because they do not support gay rights, I shouldn't either. My father even threatened to write the school board to keep me from joining the club. The school board must abide by his wishes if he writes them to do so. While I understand my parents' lack of support and do not expect it, would my father's actions be appropriate?

"" STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW

DEAR STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW: Not in my book. But he has done something right. He has raised a son with the intellect and backbone not only to think for himself, but also to speak out. It would be wonderful if you could educate your father, but don't count on being able to do so.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Bailey," will be 4 soon, and will be having a birthday party. We have been to a few of Bailey's friends' birthday parties, and present-opening turns into chaos. The birthday child doesn't have a chance to really look at the gifts, other children crowd closer and closer to the present-opener to get a better look, and some children cry about the gifts the birthday child has received while their parents promise to buy them a "better one" on their next outing.

I make sure my daughter is well-behaved when it comes to present-opening, but not all parents seem to feel the need to curb this behavior on the part of their children. Would it be acceptable to wait to open Bailey's presents until after the guests have left?

"" WANTS TO BE A COURTEOUS HOSTESS

DEAR WANTS TO BE COURTEOUS: Children learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not because their parents take the time to explain to them what is expected, and correct them when they make a mistake. The parents you have described were either too ignorant or too lazy to do their job.

Although some "birthday mommies" provide gift bags or party favors for all the children to unwrap, most people consider the present-opening ritual to be part of the fun of the birthday celebration and expect it.

A better solution would be to hold smaller birthday parties for your daughter so things don't get out of hand. According to the chapter "Table and Party Manners" in "Emily Post's Etiquette": "One guest should be invited for each year of a child's age, plus one."

DEAR ABBY: My daughter-in-law, "Daisy," is a reckless driver who lives in a large metropolitan area surrounded by expressways. She tailgates, weaves in and out of traffic and passes cars at high speeds, often using her cell phone while driving.

Daisy has had several tickets. Despite this and pleas from my son and others to slow down, nothing has changed. I find this odd, because Daisy is otherwise a responsible person &

an executive with a large company, an excellent mother and a loving wife. However, she appears to have a blind spot about the risks she takes when she's behind the wheel. She justifies her speed as necessary in order to keep up with the demands of her schedule.

She would be grief-stricken if she had an accident that involved anyone, especially her infant daughter who is often in the car. Will the only wake-up call come in the form of a serious accident?

"" DISTRESSED PAPA IN MAINE

DEAR DISTRESSED PAPA: Probably &

that or a near miss. However, I view your daughter-in-law in a different light than you appear to. A mother who drives aggressively with a child in the car and talking on her cell phone does not strike me as Mother of the Year. Studies have shown that drivers on cell phones are as impaired as those who have been drinking. She's being childish, selfish, foolish and irresponsible and should be ashamed of herself.

DEAR READERS: Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was martyred in the cause of civil rights in 1968. His words ring as true today as when he first uttered them: "Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough, and morality enough, to cut off the chain of hate." He was a voice of reason in a time of insanity, silenced too soon.

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.