Dear Abby: Since travel season is upon us, I'd like to offer a suggestion as well as seek your advice. For the host and hostess who are having houseguests: Please spend a night in your guestroom to judge its comfort level.

We visit my in-laws in another state twice a year and stay in my husband's childhood room. The sheets are so thin you can read a newspaper through them and the pillows are so musty it is difficult to breathe. The only light in the room is a tiny decorative child's lamp, which does not cast enough light to tell what garments are in the closet, much less to read by. In addition, the closets are jammed with years of accumulation, making it difficult to find a place to put our clothes. It has been this way for years.When my in-laws stay in our home, I go out of my way to make them feel welcome. I always include small "extras" - new magazines, an alarm clock, extra pillows, fresh soap, a couple of drinking glasses and even fresh flowers on the dresser.

Abby, I appreciate my in-laws' hospitality and do not want to appear ungrateful, but it has reached the point where I dread staying in their home. It is not a matter of money for them or for my husband and me. I would gladly pay to "freshen" the room, if it could be done diplomatically.

Any suggestions?

- Dreading It in the Carolinas

Dear Dreading it: Your suggestion to check out the guestroom before guests arrive is a good one. Your mother-in-law may think that your husband will feel more at home because she has left his boyhood room intact. However, I see nothing wrong with your providing her with a "hostess gift" of new bedding, a folding luggage rack or a new table lamp specifically marked for the guestroom. She should welcome it.

Dear Abby: My son died recently after a long illness, and many mourners stepped past my husband to offer me condolences. It hurt my husband deeply. He's the only father my children have known for the past 11 years, but even his family felt that it was MY loss, not OURS.

Abby, my son and my husband were very close, especially near the end. I think my son felt he could confide his fears to his dad, but must be brave for Mom.

In a world where birth fathers are walking away from their responsibilities, stepdads, foster fathers and adoptive parents are stepping in to shoulder that responsibility. Even though their presence is often resented by the children, these dads continue to love and care for their new families.

Abby, please explain to your readers that even if they don't understand the dynamics of stepfamily relationships, the stepparent shares in the rearing of the child, including loving the child. Condolences or congratulations should be expressed to the stepparent as well as the birth parent.

Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings.

- Grieving mother in New Jersey

Dear Grieving mother: Perhaps the mourners didn't mean to be insensitive. I hope your letter will cause them (and others) to reconsider their assumptions about stepparents who do, indeed, deserve more sympathy than your husband received in his time of sorrow.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

Copyright 1997 Universal Press Syndicate

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All of the Dear Abby columns for the past several years are available online. Search for "DEAR ABBY" in the Lifestyle section and the Deseret News archives.