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DEAR ABBY: How old does a child have to be before she is able to choose a relative to live with? I'm the one my granddaughter wants to stay with. Her home life is in turmoil because of her parents' nasty divorce.

Ever since her mother (my daughter) found out my granddaughter wants to live with me, she has forbidden her to talk to me, and me to contact her. Her mother is depressed and angry, but won't seek counseling. She doesn't talk to me unless it's to say ugly things.

My granddaughter said her mother never smiles anymore. We are very close and this hurts my heart. She's a good girl and should be able to be happy.

We live several hours away, and are more than willing to have her. She already has a room here, and our home is never happier than when she's visiting.

We haven't spoken to her in months, and we really miss her. Her younger sibling gets most of the positive attention, while she receives mostly negative attention. I don't know what to do to help her. -- HEARTBROKEN IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: It would have been helpful if you had mentioned why your daughter is angry with you and is preventing your grandchild from contacting you and vice versa. If she's in such bad shape that it is negatively affecting your granddaughter, your questions should be addressed to a lawyer.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is very outgoing. He loves chatting on the phone for hours, and talks with all the neighbors up and down the street. He's retired, so it's fine -- up to a point.

We have a set time for dinner, which is 6:30, and he knows it. Invariably he'll be on the phone or up the street when it's close to dinner. I always remind him 10 to 15 minutes ahead, which gives him time to be here to eat, but he'll keep chatting until he's anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour late to dinner.

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I put time and effort into preparing my meals. I grow my own vegetables and think of creative things to fix. He always comments how great the meals are, so it's not that he doesn't like my food.

I feel it's incredibly rude for him to be late. When I tell him that, he laughs like it's a big joke. Can you help? -- FED UP IN NAPA, CALIF.

DEAR FED UP: I can't force your husband to the dinner table and neither can you. To toss his dinner into the garbage would be too overtly hostile and a waste of food. Try this: Tell him dinner time is 6:30, but prepare the food as if it's for 6:45 or 7.


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