Dear Annie: I am seeing a man who went through a traumatic divorce a couple of years ago. "Barry's" wife left him to marry someone else, and soon after, she left her new husband. She's now living with relatives close by.

My problem is, she constantly calls Barry to fix her car, give her rides, borrow his van, etc. She knows he is seeing me, but she is slowly working her way back into the picture. Barry is more than happy to accommodate her. If she calls when I am at his house, he will leave the room to talk with her at length. I sometimes get up and go home.

I am very uncomfortable with this behavior, especially knowing it will continue as long as Barry allows it. Out of respect for me, I feel he should not continue to have contact with her. Do you agree? — Patient Girlfriend

Dear Patient: You're missing the big picture. We suspect Barry still harbors a great deal of affection for his ex-wife and if she were to ask to get back together, he'd probably consider it. Barry needs to be honest about his feelings for her and what he thinks he's accomplishing by remaining so enmeshed in her life. You can inform him that being at her beck and call prevents him from moving on. And if he isn't interested in moving on, you should.

Dear Annie: I travel fairly regularly on business. Flying affords me an opportunity to have some "down time," which I like to use for reading, napping and looking out the window.

I'm not opposed to having a chat with the person seated next to me, and on a few occasions these chats have been enjoyable experiences. But mostly what seems to happen is that once a conversation begins, it doesn't end until the flight does, and I end up regretting the lost opportunity for a little solitude.

I'd prefer not to be rude, but even if I ask, "Where are you headed?" it often means the end of any chance for quiet time. And sometimes my seatmate is the one who starts the conversation. Opening a laptop or writing on a legal pad provides a graceful exit, but if I just want to read a paperback or gaze at the clouds, how do I do that without being offensive? — Seeking Solitude in the Skies

Dear Solitude: You are being unnecessarily solicitous. It's one thing to be stuck next to a talkative companion at a dinner party, but you are under no obligation to make conversation with a stranger on an airplane. Nod politely when addressed and say, "Hope you don't mind if I get back to my book" or nap or wool gathering or whatever you want to do on your own time.

Dear Annie: "Heartbroken Mom" should know her son is not the only one who obsesses about trying to "be like we were." I also have a closed head injury of 15 years. I, too, have been extremely blessed to have a family that has stood beside me.

There are times when I totally lose my verbal skills. I don't drive beyond a five-mile radius because sometimes I forget where I'm going. People tell me, "Well, I can't remember things either." Such idiotic comments don't help.

I have been in therapy for five years. At first, I thought if I worked really hard, God would let me be "normal" again. It took a long time to accept that I am not like other people, but I am normal for my circumstances. After all these years, there are still new challenges. There is depression, self-criticism and always the feeling that people are making fun of you.

I never knew of anyone else in my situation until I saw that letter. Thank you for printing it and for giving me the address of BIAA. — Anna in Hazel Park

Dear Anna: I'm sure you have no idea how much your letter will help others. Many thanks.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.