DEAR ABBY:

I am in my 30s and moved out of my parents' home 10 years ago. Last week I decided to visit them, and we went out to eat. Dad has a habit of sending his food back to the kitchen - "My steak isn't cooked enough," or "My food is cold. Could you warm it up?" He even does this at restaurants that aren't fancy.

Dad has done this my whole life and he's in his 60s. It's embarrassing for me and Mom, and it frustrates the cooks and waitstaff. Is there a polite way of telling him to stop this behavior? He takes any criticism personally.

- Embarrassed in the Northeast

DEAR EMBARRASSED: You are certainly free to tell your father that this habit embarrasses you, but after all these years, you and your mother are not going to change him. Restaurants are in the hospitality business. If your father isn't satisfied with his food, he has a right to ask that it be served to his liking, and most restaurants will gladly comply. We are not responsible for the actions of other people, and because of that, you should not feel embarrassed about something over which you have no control.

Hubby not quite fulfilling her gift

DEAR ABBY: Last year for my birthday, my husband asked me what I wanted for a gift. I told him I would like flowers once a month for one year. He's been pretty good about it. But I complained about the way I receive them, which is, when we are driving home in our truck (we work together) and it's nearing the end of the month, he'll pull into the parking lot at the grocery store, run in, come back and hand them to me. He always picks out a beautiful bunch, but my complaint was that it's never a "surprise." He says he can't decide if I'm ungrateful or a spoiled brat. What say you and your readers?

- Grateful in California

DEAR GRATEFUL: Your mistake was in not clearly specifying that what you wanted was a bouquet in a vase from a florist. However, because you also told your husband you wanted flowers once a month, I fail to see how they would in any way be a "surprise." He has been giving you what you asked for, and you shouldn't look a gift husband in the mouth. I'm not going to name call, but shame on you.

Remeber to check

on the isolated

DEAR ABBY: People in nursing homes or at home - ill, incapacitated or retired - still need social contacts. In our busy society, these folks are often forgotten, and it is hurtful. We will all get there someday and will fully understand how important an occasional phone call or greeting card can be. Please ask your readers to make a note on their calendar as a "reminder." If they do, someone will be very grateful for the kind gesture - most likely the recipient - but it may also be their family members. Kindness goes a long way.

- Remembering in New Hampshire

DEAR REMEMBERING: You have a caring soul. Your message is an important one, which is why I am sharing it with my readers. I know most of you are busy people, but a simple gesture can make a world of difference to those who may be isolated.